Chase Elliott was dealt another harsh hand late in the going of a NASCAR Cup Series race, this time in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday.
Elliott and his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports team appeared headed for victory lane when the caution flew for the final time with two laps to go. In an ugly twist of fate, Elliott’s teammate William Byron shredded a left rear tire and spun off Turn 2 to set up overtime.
Crew chief Alan Gustafson called Elliott to pit road from the lead for fresh tires while eight other drivers stayed on track. Lined up 11th for the dash to the finish, Elliott crossed under the checkered flag with a third place.
“It’s very unfortunate,” said Elliott. “I hate it for both myself and my team, our sponsors, the whole nine yards. Unfortunate, but it is what it is. Can’t help it. Those things happen. I’ve watched a lot of races unfold that way. Unfortunate to be on that end of it. It’s one of those deals.”
On Wednesday, Elliott had fresher tires and was in contention for the victory at Darlington Raceway when spun by Kyle Busch from second place with 28 laps to go.
“You just make the best decision you can based on the information you have,” Elliott said of the decision to pit before overtime. “When you’re leading the race like that, the people behind you are going to do the exact opposite of what you do, so that was the situation we were put in. Alan made a decision, we stuck with it, and it didn’t work out.”
In repeatedly using the word “unfortunate” to describe both the night just gone and the past two races, Elliott also acknowledged he’d had some tough losses in the few years he’s been at the Cup Series level. Elliott led 38 laps in the Coca-Cola 600, and again is left looking forward.
“Just try again,” he said. “That’s all you can do. There really is no other option. I can’t rewind time. There’s no other choice.