Chase Elliott on title hopes: 'It's not over until it’s over'
Chase Elliott knows he’s in a tough position when it comes to competing for his first NASCAR Cup Series championship.
But unlike a majority of the series’ drivers, he still has a path available to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“It takes some talent to get 80 points back (of the cutoff line) in two weeks, but we’ve achieved it,” Elliott said sarcastically Friday at ISM Raceway. “Certainly self-inflicted; I hate that I messed up last week as bad as I did, there’s really no excuse for that.
“But we’re in the position we’re in; we’re there; it’s reality and we certainly will have to win to have a shot next week.”
So far, it’s been a disastrous semifinal playoff round for Elliott, one of only two Chevrolet drivers to advance to the Round of 8 (Kyle Larson is the other).
Elliott broke an axle in his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet early at Martinsville and spent more than 50 laps in the garage before returning to the track and finishing 36th.
Last weekend at Texas, Elliott spun on his own on Lap 9, again required extensive repairs, returned to the track and finished 32nd.
With only Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500 race at Phoenix left to qualify for the final two slots in the Championship 4, Elliott’s points deficit leaves winning on Sunday his only option to advance.
“I feel like our team has worked really hard to get us this far – we could have very easily not made it past Kansas and been out then – for us to be a part of this deal and to still have a chance,” Elliott said.
“There’s three races in every round for a reason and you just can’t let those first two weeks affect your mindset, your approach, your aggressiveness and your will to want to win in this last opportunity.
“Just because we’re in a tough spot and it’s our last chance to make it to Homestead doesn’t mean it’s over.”
Elliott has had a mixed record at Phoenix. In seven career starts, he has four top-10 finishes, with a career-best finish of second in this race two years ago.
Since the track’s multi-million-dollar facelift and reconfiguration, however, he’s finished 23rd last fall and 14th this past spring.
Regardless, Elliott and his No. 9 team are much improved since the beginning of the season when many teams were still getting a handle on the season’s new aero package.
“We still have an entire race on Sunday. I just think you have to make sure you keep that in mind. It can definitely be challenging to look and say ‘I crashed on Lap 8 last week and that’s not good obviously’.
“But you just have to approach this week as a new one and know if we win on Sunday, we can race again next week and have a shot at it. It’s just not over until it’s over.”
Spring Phoenix winner Kyle Busch tops Friday's first practice
Chase Elliott fastest in final Cup practice at Phoenix