- Chase Elliott started Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway from the 33rd position after qualifying was rained out and the starting lineup was determined by the rule book.
- The 27-year-old drove to a 10th-place finish in the first stage and took the green-and-white checkered flag in seventh to end the second stage.
- The 2020 Cup Series champion continued his climb forward in the final stage, earning a second-place finish in the 200-lap race in Fontana, California.
- Elliott now sits 14th in the point standings after the second event of the 2023 season, 43 points behind the leader.
After a weekend full of rain in Fontana, California, the NASCAR Cup Series took the green flag on Sunday afternoon for its 200-lap race at Auto Club Speedway. Chase Elliott and the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts team started the race from the 33rd position after the lineup was set according to the rule book. It didn’t take long for Elliott to begin his climb forward. When the competition caution flag waved at the conclusion of lap 15, the Dawsonville, Georgia, native was scored in the 25th position. Under caution, Elliott reported that his NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was getting tight center off during the run. The team made its first pit stop of the day for four tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment.
Elliott was 25th after his pit stop and chose the top lane for the restart on lap 20. He made quick work of the cars ahead of him, charging his way to 12th by lap 41. Just one lap later the caution flag was displayed and crew chief Alan Gustafson called Elliott to pit road for four fresh tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment. A fast stop by the No. 9 pit crew catapulted Elliott to seventh upon leaving pit road. The 2020 Cup Series champion chose the top lane once again. Elliott maneuvered his way to fifth on lap 49, but his No. 9 Chevrolet was too free as the run progressed and he was scored 10th at the conclusion of stage one on lap 65. During the stage-ending caution, the team made the call to reverse the previous adjustments during its pit stop for four tires and fuel in an effort to tighten up the NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet.
Elliott chose the top lane to start the second stage on lap 72 and was running in 13th when the caution flag waved just two laps later. The team made another stop for four tires and fuel and Elliott restarted just inside the top 15 on lap 79. He improved his position and made his way back up to 10th before the caution flag waved on lap 81. After opting to stay out on the track, Elliott was scored in eighth and took the top lane for the restart. Before the entire field could take the green flag, a multi-car incident brought out the yellow flag once again. Staying out for a second time, he took the top for the lap-91 restart. Elliott faded to 13th on lap 97, but as the run went on his Chevrolet came to life. The driver of the No. 9 powered his way to seventh before the green-and-white checkered flag waved to end stage two on lap 130. During the stage break, the team made a fast pit stop for four tires and fuel, gaining Elliott two positions.
The 27-year-old driver was scored in the fifth position following his pit stop and chose the top lane before the start of the final stage on lap 136. He was in that same spot when the caution flag was displayed on lap 141. Gustafson called Elliott to pit road for four tires and the team packed the No. 9 Chevrolet full of fuel. He lined up seventh for the choose cone and opted for the top lane. The field took the green flag for the restart with just 55 laps to go and Elliott continued to battle inside the top 10. He was back up to fifth on lap 149 and gained two more positions before scheduled green flag pit stops began around lap 165. Gustafson called Elliott to pit road on lap 167 for the team’s final pit stop of the day. On lap 175, the Hendrick Motorsports driver was in the fourth position with one car left to pit. He continued to track down the cars ahead of him, advancing to second on lap 182. Elliott drove hard in the final laps but ran out of time to battle for the lead. He ultimately took the checkered flag in the second position, his best career finish at the 2-mile facility. Kyle Busch claimed the victory. Elliott’s runner-up finish and stage points earned helped him improve to 14th in the Cup Series point standings. He is just 43 points behind the leader as the series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway next weekend.
“Just really proud of our team,” Elliott said. “We obviously didn’t run very good there toward the end of the year last year, and everybody really went to work hard over the winter to try and get better. I appreciate everybody on our NAPA team for just sticking with it and sticking with each other. I think we still have some work to do, but it was really nice to just see a lot of that hard work pay off and have the car driving like we were wanting it to do. That’s always a good thing. Appreciate everybody’s effort; everybody at Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet.”
Start / Finish: 33 / 2
Points Standing / Total: 14th / 49 pts. (-43)
Next Race: Sunday, March 5, Las Vegas Motor Speedway
How to Watch or Listen: 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and 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.