Chase Elliott is no stranger to the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs but aside from having one more win this year than last, the Hendrick Motorsports driver can’t say his fourth appearance stands out above the others.
“I feel good,” Elliott did admit during media day Thursday afternoon. “I feel good mentally. I feel good physically. I couldn’t look you in the eye and tell you I’m any different or I feel any different today than I did a year ago or two years ago, but we can act like it for a day or two and see how Sunday goes.”
Elliott and the No. 9 Chevrolet team start the playoffs seeded seventh with 18 bonus points. A year ago, he had just one win (Watkins Glen) and 10 fewer points, whereas now Elliott carries two victories from the regular season, Talladega and a Glen repeat, and being the highest-seeded Hendrick driver.
Those ahead of Elliott are from the organizations that have earned the most wins and headlines this year. But no matter — Elliott is confident his team is just as capable of getting to the title race.
“I feel like we have a team that’s championship-worthy,” he said.
Elliott also believes the gap from those top teams — specifically Gibbs and Penske — to everyone has closed through the season, if just slightly.
“In certain areas, for sure,” said Elliott. “Other areas, I think we still have work to do. But, I feel like we’ve learned a few lessons in the past few weeks that if we can get things rolling and then implement at the right time, I think we could potentially make some gains. So, that’s why it’s so hard to tell. We might be excited about a weekend or a car build or something, but you don’t know what all your competitors have done, either. You know they’re not just sitting there staying the same. It’s so hard to guess.
“That’s been one of the things I’ve learned the most in my career; there have been times that I’ve been really excited about a race weekend, and then we get somewhere, and we suck. I just don’t get excited about it because until we get there and really see how things go, it really doesn’t matter. We just need to approach each week with the same level mindset and hope it goes good. Because trying to guess beforehand doesn’t seem to do me much good.”
In his previous three playoff appearances, Elliott finished sixth, fifth, and 10th.
Chevrolet has not had a representing driver at Homestead since 2016 when it was another Hendrick driver, Jimmie Johnson. Elliott has never been in that position. However, he has been the leading Chevy driver for much of this season in wins and points, and if there is any belief that the manufacturer has an uphill battle against the Fords and Toyotas, it’s not something Elliott shares.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I don’t lose sleep over it. I think it is what it is. We have just a good a shot as anybody this year.”