A second-place finish Saturday night at Richmond Raceway did not bring Chase Elliott the disappointment he would typically feel.
“Just very fortunate circumstances there at the end for us with the way the restarts went,” Elliott said. “Having a short run there at the end was definitely in our favor. So, it was nice to be on the good end of things for the first time in a while.”
Elliott appeared to have a top-10 car in the Toyota Owners 400, but he was never a factor at the front of the field. Multiple cautions and pit stops led to restarts that saw Elliott move up the leaderboard. He lined up third on the overtime restart but had no challenge for winner Kyle Busch after grabbing the runner-up spot.
Richmond was Elliott’s second top-five run in nine races, and he now has eight second-place finishes in his career.
“Looking forward, we have to be realistic about how we ran tonight,” said Elliott. “I think the result shouldn’t weigh into how hard we worked this week because we have some work to do. I think that we have to keep that in mind.”
The highest-finishing Chevrolet driver of the three who finished in the top 10, Elliott was the best showing for Hendrick Motorsports. Jimmie Johnson joined him in the top 10, finishing sixth.
Having rolled out the new Camaro this season, Elliott and Kyle Larson have been the two consistent drivers to find success with it. Aside from Austin Dillon’s last-lap pass to win the Daytona 500, it has been tough sledding.
The same goes for Hendrick Motorsports, an organization that has not been in winning form for some time. Johnson struggled in the playoffs and is working on a winless drought dating back to last June. Elliott, Alex Bowman and rookie William Byron have never won a Cup Series race.
All four HMS drivers sit outside the top 12 in points. However, while Elliott sees the progress, he is still cautiously optimistic.
“We’ve been getting better, for sure, over the course of the past handful of weeks,” said Elliott. “I thought last week [in Bristol] was really probably our best effort as a company. Obviously, we crashed at the beginning. I felt like our car was solid throughout the whole weekend – our teammates ran well.
“I think we have to continue to be realistic with ourselves. We can’t look at the results tonight and think we’re right there, because in reality, I think we still have some work to do. I think anybody amongst our team would say the same thing. I’m not knocking anyone, anybody on my team or whoever, but we all know we need to do better.
“I think we just have to be realistic with ourselves.”