Under unexpected circumstances over the past few weeks, Chase Elliott has found a familiar name alongside his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
Jeff Gordon is continuing to substitute for Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who continues on his path to recovery from concussion-like symptoms, and is back in his No. 88 Chevrolet this weekend at Watkins Glen International.
Elliott, who makes his first Sprint Cup Series start at the Glen on Sunday, has found the positives from having a four-time track winner in his stable.
“I never would’ve thought it would work out like this,” Elliott said. “More than anything, he’s being a really good teammate. To come back and and offer his support says a lot about him and his character. He’s been a big help in recognizing where we are week-to-week trying to help us improve. I’ve enjoyed racing with him.”Following the opening 15 rounds of the season, most people would assume the 20-year-old rookie wouldn’t need much assistance. With six top-5 and 11 top-10 finishes leading up to the road course of Sonoma, Elliott was in prime position to make the Chase on points – If not, on a soon-to-come win.
However, the last five races have seen four finishes of 30th or worse, leading to a steady drop in the Chase standings. Sitting only 25 points above the cutoff zone, Elliott is not ready to play the conservative approach.
“I don’t think a conservative approach is the way to go about it,” he said. “I think being too conservative, you can get yourself into more trouble. I don’t really want to change how we do things as a team. Just trying to be a little smarter, trying to do my job better.”
Entering the newly paved Watkins Glen course, a track Elliott finished sixth and seventh on in the XFINITY Series, Elliott will lean on the testing time he ran last week.
“Laps never hurt,” he said. “I look back at the test and how that was a help for me, just to have extra laps here. I was glad we were chosen, it was our turn to come test and I’m happy it was at a road course, especially as bad a job I did at Sonoma a few weeks.
“I know it’s a repave and there are unknowns, but it’s very similar to the old Watkins Glen. Still really fast. They did a good job paving it. It is as similar you can have a repave to an old surface as possible.”