For the second time in three races, Chase Elliott blamed himself for the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports team not ending the day in victory lane.
Sunday, it was at New Hampshire Motor Speedway where Elliott finished second to Christopher Bell. Elliott led 13 laps after taking the lead on lap 247 of the Ambetter 301, but he couldn’t hold off Bell, who made the winning pass on lap 260.
“Just do a better job again; same conversation as Road America, unfortunately,” Elliott said of what he needed on the last run. “I felt like just a poor run of execution on my end throughout that last run. I feel like it took me a while to get past Joey [Logano] and the No. 45 [Kurt Busch] and had to run a little harder than I wanted to, and then got in front of those guys and just made a couple of mistakes and couldn’t get much breathing room.
“Christopher Bell did a good job. Congrats to those guys. I know they’ve stayed close to winning, so that’s cool. Obviously, for us — we were in a position where guys at this level really should close out a race if you’ve got the lead like that. Just poor effort on my part.”
Elliott took advantage of fresher tires to climb through the field when the race restarted for the final time on lap 210. He became the driver in the catbird seat as dominant Martin Truex Jr. faded. Elliott quickly moved into the top five, picked off Logano for the second position on lap 243, and then passed Busch for the race lead four laps later.
Bell also had fresh tires and his car was coming to life. The two drove away from their competition as those on older tires – Logano, Busch, and Cole Custer – also faded.
Despite the disappointment, Elliott continues to control the regular season point standings and has finished no worse than second in the last four races with 187 laps led — a stretch that also includes two wins.
“Yeah, but when you’re in position like we’ve been in, you need to finish them off,” Elliott said. “The top twos don’t tell the whole story. Sometimes you’ve got to step back and look at the reality of it, and the reality is I’ve given away a couple races just by making too many mistakes. You don’t want to have that. [We’ll] try to clean it up for these final events.”
How does the 2020 series champion do that?
“Go to work,” he said. “I don’t know. Everything.”