Small victories go a long way in the quest to return a team to championship dominance.
Chase Elliott and the No. 9 Hooters Chevrolet team experienced their first of those on Sunday in Sin City, as the Dawsonville, Georgia native came home in ninth-place, his first top 10 finish of the season. After finishes of 17th and 19th to open up the season, the Hendrick Motorsports driver may have turned a corner.
“Yeah, I definitely think so,” he said. “As a whole, we ran inside the top 10 the majority of the day, and ultimately finished in the top 10 which is nice. A lot better than last week. A step in the right direction and we just have to keep them going. This is a war not a battle, we gotta think about getting better for 38 weeks and we have 35 left. Better keep pushing and take another chunk like we did this week next week.”
Despite winning three races last season and carrying the banner for HMS, Elliott has been no stranger to the organizational struggles also experienced by young drivers Alex Bowman and William Byron as well as seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson.
“You can’t freak about it. It is what it is, nobody can change that,” he said of the early season struggles. “We can just try to improve each week, keep working hard. And if we know we’re performing to the best of our abilities, that’s all you can ask for. Ultimately it’s not where we want to be, but it’s not 19th, so we’ll take the improvement.”
After his time was disallowed in qualifying, Elliott was optimistic about the new rules package for Sunday’s 400-miler. Post-race, his thought’s hadn’t changed.
“Like I’ve told everybody else through here, if it was entertaining to watch, I don’t care,” he said. “That’s the main thing. If entertainment is produced then it does not matter to me, I’m happy to drive whatever it is. Rules are the same for everybody. It’s irrelevant if it’s fun to watch.”
Elliott wasn’t able to get in clean air at any point on Sunday, but experimented with different lanes throughout the 267-lap affair to try and slice and dice his way through the pack.
“Having the ability to move around is key,” he said. “Always has been and today was no different. I didn’t think it was a whole lot different from that perspective. Especially late in a run you had to move around and find fresh lanes and be smart about your passes to get them done.”
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to ISM Raceway next weekend for the Ticket Guardian 500 on Sunday, March 10.