- Chase Elliott returned to the track for the first time since missing six races due to a fractured tibia suffered in a snowboarding accident. The 27-year-old qualified 24th for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway.
- Elliott battled through a tough handling condition throughout the first two stages of the race, finishing 21st and 25th, respectively.
- The Dawsonville, Georgia, native’s NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 came to life during the final stage of the race, with Elliott taking the checkered flag in the 10th position. It was his second top-10 finish in just three starts this season.
Chase Elliott returned to the track for the first time since missing six races due to a fractured tibia suffered in a snowboarding accident in early March. After a strong showing in practice on Saturday, the 27-year-old qualified 24th for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway. Elliott battled inside the top 25 throughout the first stage of the race. He was scored 23rd during the midpoint of stage one when he relayed that his NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was really stiff. As the run went on, the 2020 Cup Series champion powered through the tough handling condition, gaining two positions to take the green-and-white checkered flag in 21st on lap 80.
During the stage break, crew chief Alan Gustafson called Elliott to pit road for four tires, fuel and chassis adjustments to help improve the NAPA Chevrolet’s handling. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native took the green flag for the second stage in the 26th position on lap 91 and was scored in 27th when the caution flag waved on lap 132. Elliott communicated to his team that it was difficult to pass because he couldn’t turn down, and his No. 9 didn’t have any drive. Gustafson called for another round of adjustments during the team’s pit stop for four tires and fuel. Elliott restarted from the 27th position on lap 142 and maneuvered his way to 24th just 10 laps later, before ultimately ending the second stage in 25th.
Under the stage-ending caution, the team made another pit stop for four tires, fuel and an adjustment in an effort to get the NAPA Chevrolet closer to Elliott’s liking. After firing off for the final stage in 22nd on lap 192, Elliott began advancing his position and was up to 19th before scheduled green-flag stops ensued on lap 288. Gustafson called Elliott in on lap 292 for four tires and fuel. Before the field could cycle through pit stops, the caution flag waved for stray tire on the track with just 98 laps to go. Elliott was trapped one lap down, but the team opted to take the wave around to get back on the lead lap. The driver of the No. 9 restarted from 23rd on lap 312 and gained a few positions in the opening laps before dropping back to 23rd on lap 327. He was scored in that same spot when an incident brought out the caution on lap 344. During the yellow flag, the team made its final pit stop for four tires and fuel and sent Elliott back out to restart in the 22nd position with just 46 laps to go. The five-time Cup Series Most Popular Driver Award winner methodically worked his way forward in the closing laps, powering to 10th before the checkered flag waved in the 400-lap race.
It was Elliott’s second top-10 finish in just three starts this season. Next week, the series heads to Talladega Superspeedway, a track where Elliott is the most recent winner.
This is a tough racetrack. On a braking racetrack, how did the leg hold up today?
“Yeah, it was pretty good, honestly. It was about what I expected, so that’s a good thing. It was warm. I’ve been sitting on the couch for six weeks, so I think that probably hurt me more than anything. But our NAPA Chevy, we struggled every run but the last one. We finally got it going there at the end and I was able to make some passes and do things that I didn’t really think I’d be capable of doing, or at least of us fixing it to that degree here at the racetrack. So I was pleasantly surprised by that. Got us a top-10 out of our first day back.”
Certainly a nice battle by your team to get your car to the top 10 today. What is the one thing you’ve missed the most about being at the racetrack over the past six weeks?
“The people, really. From my peers, to my teammates – that competitive nature of being here and wanting to be better. Really nice to be back and appreciate the warm welcome this weekend by everybody, so I appreciate that. It definitely didn’t go unnoticed.”
Start / Finish: 24 / 10
Points Standing / Total: 31 / 76 pts. (-226)
Next Race: Sunday, April 23, Talladega Superspeedway, Talladega, Ala.
How to Watch or Listen: 3:00 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM
Founded by Rick Hendrick in 1984, Hendrick Motorsports is the winningest team in NASCAR Cup Series history. At the sport’s premier level, the organization holds the all-time records in every major statistical category, including championships (14), points-paying race victories (291) and laps led (over 77,000). Headquartered in Concord, North Carolina, the team fields four full-time entries in the NASCAR Cup Series, including the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 driven by 2020 champion Chase Elliott.