Chase Elliott: "Nothing I can do about" bad playoff start

NASCAR Cup Series 2022 regular season champion Chase Elliott was adamant that entering the playoffs no one was safe and he ended up being the prime example.

Elliott, who entered last weekend’s playoff opener at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway as the No. 1 seed, ended up being the first driver out of the race.

On Lap 113 of 367, Elliott spun in Turn 1 and hit the wall, then got into Chase Briscoe as he slid down back across the track. The damage on the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was not repairable.

Before the race was halfway over, Elliott lost the points advantage he had enjoyed entering the first round. His last-place finish dropped him from first to ninth in points with two races remaining in the first round – this weekend at Kansas Speedway and the following week at Bristol, Tenn.

A forgettable weekend

Elliott had gotten off to a slow start Darlington weekend – qualifying 23rd – but believed he was making progress on what could have been a solid finish.

“Anytime you qualify (in the back), you kind of have your work cut out for you. We had a difficult pit (stall) pick. We had a difficult position there and obviously that starts with a poor qualifying effort and I take a lot of responsibility for that,” Elliott said.

“I did think we had our work cut out for us just from that aspect but I was actually pretty pleased with how far we had driven up there. We were kind of close to last (place) there at one point. I had a bad initial start.

“Between the cycle of (pit) stops and race runs, we were somewhere inside the top 15. I thought we had made up some decent ground there personally. Obviously, there was a long ways to go in the race – I don’t even think it was dark yet.”

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As is his usual approach, Elliott said he didn’t dwell on the poor night and prefers to focus on what he needs to do in the next two races.

“There is absolutely nothing I can do about it,” Elliott said. “When you have a bad day and you fall out of the race, yeah, my hands are tied, and at that point, there’s nothing I can do other than just see where it shakes, and then on Monday just recognize where we are and the situation we’re in and go from there.

“That’s really about it. You can sit there and study it and watch and this and that, but it’s not going to do you any good. You can’t do anything about it.”

Elliott said there is one path forward.

“Get prepared for the next week and wait seven days and try again,” he said. “This is definitely part of racing and we’ve been working together long enough to know stuff is going to happen,

stuff you don’t want to happen and I hold myself to a standard where I don’t want mistakes like t this to transpire but unfortunately that’s not life.

“The reality is mistakes will be made and you’re going to have tough days at the office. I’m just glad my office is driving race cars and turning left most of the time for a living. Just looking forward to another opportunity.”

A night of misfortune for playoff challengers

Elliott wasn’t alone among playoff drivers with problems at Darlington, but his troubles appear most pronounced since he began with the biggest advantage in points.

But Elliott had also warned that this season – which has now produced 17 different winners in 27 races – was unpredictable.

“I told you all week last week that no one is safe. And I was including ourselves,” he said. “I don’t think anybody is safe in any of the rounds.

“I thought that before Sunday, and I will continue to think that.”

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