Chase Elliott loses shot at first win on late-race restart

It was déjà vu all over again for Chase Elliott.

Chase Elliott loses shot at first win on late-race restart
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Race winner Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Race winner Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

For the second consecutive race at Michigan International Speedway, Elliott had a chance to earn his first career Sprint Cup Series victory only to see the opportunity slip away on a late-race restart.

I’m so sorry guys. My fault again.

Chase Elliott

An average finish of second in the first two races at a track in his rookie season would normally be much to celebrate about, but not when victories were legitimate possibilities.

“Bummer again here. I hate to let my guys down is the biggest thing. For the second time this has happened,” Elliott said after Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400. “I made a mistake early on in the race. I asked my guys to bail me out, and they did. Unfortunately, I didn’t do my part again.”

With Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick and former driver of the No. 24, Jeff Gordon, in his pit watching, Elliott was in position to take his first victory late in the race.’

A caution for Michael Annett’s wreck sent several lead-lap cars down pit road but Elliott, Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski remained on the track with older tires.

The crucial restart

On the restart, Larson powered past Elliott and into the lead on Lap 191 as Elliott appeared to spin his tires. Elliott dropped back to third before making a late charge back to second but without enough time to catch Larson.

As he crossed the finish line, Elliott said over his team radio, “I’m so sorry guys. My fault again.”

His crew chief, Alan Gustafson, replied: “Chin up. Just got to keep fighting. Long ways to go.”

Elliott sits 11th in the series standings and with two races to go before the 16-driver  championship Chase begins, he would still make the field based on points alone.

“That’s a couple races in a row in just a few short months here at this place we had a really good car, had an opportunity (to win). That’s one thing I try really hard to do is make the most of opportunities when they’re presented,” Elliott said. “Obviously, I didn’t do a very good job of that here both trips. 

“I need to do my restarts a little better. That’s obviously not a strong point, at least here at Michigan. I need to think about that some and I guess take the positives. We were strong I felt like as a company today, which was encouraging.  Look at that, try to get to Darlington.”

Elliott said he would be “lying” if he said he was frustrated and disappointed.

“If I wasn’t, that would mean I didn’t care,” he said.

His toughest critic 

In his relatively brief NASCAR career, Elliott, 20, has been hard on himself when opportunities for victories have slipped through his grasp. Throughout this season he has never viewed being a rookie in NASCAR’s premier series as an excuse for what he considers poor performance.

“For me, I just have to try to take the positives out of it, recognize an issue when you see one. There’s only one way to fix it, and that’s to hit it head on,” he said. “No need of hiding from it. 

“Just try to fix it and hope you have more opportunities to improve and to show that you can do it down the road.”

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