- Chase Elliott qualified 13th for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway.
- The 27-year-old driver improved his position to seventh to end stage one before finishing 11th in the second stage.
- After being stuck deep in the field to start the final stage due to varying pit strategy, Elliott and the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts team rallied to earn an eighth-place result.
- The No. 9 team is now 11th in the owner playoff standings, three points above the elimination line with two races left until the playoff field gets narrowed down to 12.
The NASCAR Cup Series kicked off the playoffs this weekend at Darlington Raceway. Chase Elliott and the No. 9 team entered the weekend 16th in the playoff standings for the owner championship. Elliott rolled off the grid from the 13th position for Sunday’s 367-lap event at Darlington. After dropping back to 15th early in the stage, Elliott pressed his way forward as the field got closer to its first round of green-flag pit stops. The 27-year-old driver pitted from the 12th position on lap 33 for four tires and fuel and was scored in that same spot once pit stops were complete. He continued his climb from there, maneuvering inside the top 10 just prior to another round of pit stops. Elliott’s No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 came to life following his team’s fast stop for four tires and fuel, with the driver powering to seventh to close out stage one on lap 115.
Just prior to the stage-ending caution, Elliott reported that he didn’t think his balance was in a terrible place. When pit road opened, crew chief Alan Gustafson called him in for four tires and fuel. A speedy pit stop by the No. 9 crew gained Elliott a spot upon leaving pit road, making him the sixth driver to choose their lane for the restart. He lined up on the bottom row to start the second stage on lap 122 and continued to battle inside the top 10. Elliott was racing in the eighth position when teams started making green-flag pit stops around lap 150. Gustafson radioed for the 2020 Cup Series champion to visit pit road on lap 151 for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Running in 11th once the field cycled through the round of pit stops, Elliott set his sights on the cars ahead. He moved into the 10th position prior to the caution coming out due to the lights not working over a portion of the track. Elliott and the rest of the field made their way to pit road, with the No. 9 crew knocking out another fast four-tire pit stop and gaining Elliott two positions. Eventually, the red flag was displayed as track officials worked to solve the power issue. Once the red flag lifted, the race got back under way on lap 191. After restarting in eighth, Elliott held strong inside the top 10 running order. He was in ninth when an incident brought out the caution on lap 216. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native brought his Chevrolet to the attention of his crew for four fresh tires and fuel. Elliott restarted ninth and was scored in 11th when another caution came out on lap 225. Several cars behind the No. 9 visited pit road under the yellow for a fresh set of tires. Elliott battled hard with his older tires once the race went back to green, but he had to settle for an 11th-place finish to end stage two at lap 230.
After pitting for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment during the stage break while other cars stayed out, Elliott lined up 26th to start the final stage. He was undeterred by the loss of track position, gaining positions once the green flag waved on lap 236. Elliott was up to 20th by lap 254 and didn’t stop there as he continued his climb through the field. The Hendrick Motorsports driver was scored in 15th on lap 268 when green-flag pit stops were set to start. Gustafson called Elliott in on lap 270 to pack his Chevrolet full of fuel and give him four fresh tires. Once the field cycled through stops, Elliott found himself back in 15th and managed to improve to 12th before the caution flag was displayed on lap 310. He headed to pit road under the yellow flag for four tires and fuel and restarted from the 12th position on lap 316. Just a couple laps later, a multi-car incident brought out another caution on lap 319, and the team made its final pit stop of the race. Elliott took the green flag from 13th place and improved to 10th before another incident caused the yellow flag to be displayed on lap 331. He restarted in eighth on lap 336 and quickly moved into seventh. Elliott gave it his all as the laps wound down, ultimately taking the checkered flag in the eighth position.
The strong finish was his 11th top-10 effort of the season. The No. 9 team is now 11th in the owner playoff standings and is three points above the elimination line to advance to the Round of 12.
Start / Finish: 13 / 8
Points Standing / Total: 19th / 559 pts. (-1,516)
Next Race: Sunday, Sept. 10, Kansas Speedway
How to Watch or Listen: 3:00 p.m. ET on USA, MRN or 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.