Chase Elliott came into Richmond Raceway needing a good run. During Saturday night’s Toyota Owner’s 400, he delivered.
It started in opening practice on Friday, when Elliott turned the quickest lap, and then in qualifying, he put the No. 9 car on the outside of the front row, his best qualifying effort of 2018.
Once the 400-lap race began, Elliott faded, immediately. By the end of the first lap, the No. 9 was back in fourth, failing to make the initial jump that pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr. got.
By the end of the opening stage, and one pit stop later, Elliott dropped to eighth. When Stage 2 began, it didn’t get much better, as he wound up 15th.
It was a series of late race cautions that fell Elliott’s way. His pit crew repeatedly gained him stops on pit road, and on the second to last restart, the No. 9 car dive-bombed the second row, going from fifth to third.
“They were wild,” Elliott said of the late-race restarts. “Fortunately for me, they were wild in the right way, and I was able to move forward because of them and was able to get a good finish because of how the restarts went and how crazy they were. It’s nice when you’re on that side of things for once.”
With three laps to go, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun, bringing out another caution. On the green-white-checkered finish, Elliott made a move inside Denny Hamlin to gain second, where he would finish behind eventual race winner Kyle Busch.
“I’m not as frustrated to run second as I have been before,” Elliott said. “To end there, in all reality, we didn’t deserve to run second from a pace standpoint. But from a pit stop standpoint, and the circumstances, and the way things played out, we ended up in decent shape. We just don’t need to let the results hinder our efforts in moving forward.”
Elliott was coming off a race at Bristol Motor Speedway that was essentially over before it began. During the opening 25 laps, he was involved in one of the early crashes and never recovered, leaving him to finish 29th.
The second-place effort was Elliott second top-five result of the season, jumping three positions in the championship standings to 20th. Through the first nine races of 2018, the No. 9 car is 17 markers behind the coveted 16th position, currently held by Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron.