Points leader Chase Elliott wrecks out of playoff opener

Regular season champion Chase Elliott will finish last in the playoff-opener at Darlington Raceway (S.C.).

Elliott entered the postseason as the championship leader in the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, and he's going to need all 40 of those bonus points now.

The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion will finish 36th (last place) at Darlington.

In the final moments of the first stage, he lost control and spun. The spin collected fellow playoff driver Chase Briscoe, damaging both cars. While Briscoe was able to continue, Elliott was not, running out of time on the Damaged Vehicle Policy (DVP) clock.

It will be Elliott's third DNF of the 2022 season, and second consecutive after crashing at Daytona last weekend.

"I don’t think anybody is safe at any point in time," Elliott said of the playoffs during Media Day ahead of Sunday's race. "You have to respect this format from Week One all the way to Week 10. I don’t think there is ever a period of time where you should think anything is taken for granted."

His teammate Kyle Larson had issues as well, dealing with mechanical gremlins. He is still in the race, but three laps down.

"I just hit the wall in (Turns) 1 and 2 and broke something in the right-rear," said Elliott after being released from the infield care center.

When asked how he must approach the next race, he simply replied: "A lot better than we did today."

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