Chase Elliott’s championship defense remains on track after rebounding from what could have been a disastrous night at Richmond Raceway.
The race went smoothly through the first 177 laps. Elliott finished second to Denny Hamlin in the first stage and led 58 laps. But he then messed up his lap 181 pit stop and had to spend the rest of the night on the rebound.
Coming down pit road as Ross Chastain was finishing his pit stop, Chastain pulled out and hit the left rear of Elliott’s car at the same time as Elliott went to turn into his box. Elliott ended up deeper into his box than usual and thought he was over the line. As he backed up, Elliott ran over the jack, which was already under his car.
The pit stop lasted 36 seconds as his Hendrick Motorsports team had to get the broken jack out from under the car and replace it. It left damage to the right-side skirt, and Elliott fell one lap off the pace.
Elliott described the night as “tough” after coming back to finish fourth.
“I’m super proud of our effort,” he said. “Our entire Kelley Blue Book team did a great job preparing for this week and then coming and executing a really fast car. I’m really proud of that. I hate our incident on pit road happened. I don’t know what I would have done any different. I guess let him go is a safe thing, but it’s so close and always hard to tell kind of when they’re going to get done on the left side. I hate that.
“I thought I was long in the box and backed up out of a precautionary measure, but yeah, I hate that. I know that Kyle [Busch] and Martin [Truex Jr.] were really fast there at the end. I’m not sure if we would have had anything for them, but I sure would have liked to have found out.”
It was a fight to the finish of Stage 2 (lap 235) to get his lap back. Elliott, at first, drove around leader Denny Hamlin, but Hamlin came charging back to lap Elliott again. Then Hamlin lapped Elliott’s teammate William Byron, making Elliott chase him down for the lucky dog spot. Elliott took over that position with three laps left in the stage.
Past the lap 300 mark, Elliott was back inside the top 10. He cycled out fifth after the final round of green-flag pit stops with less than 60 laps to go.
Elliott’s margin on the playoff grid cutline is 19 points going into the elimination race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“A nice rebound after last week,” he said. “Everything about Darlington was miserable. Everything about last weekend was miserable, aside from our foundation efforts. But it was nice to come here and just put together a solid night.
“I felt like we performed at a really high level that I know we are capable of every week. If we perform like that the rest of the season, I think we’ll be just fine.”