Chase Elliott learned that he inherited the Pocono Raceway win after arriving back home late on Sunday night, having already left the track with his father, Bill.
Elliott was flying home when the news broke that the Joe Gibbs Racing cars of Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch had been disqualified. Without cell service, the messages that he had his fourth win of the season came in after he landed.
“I was kind of more surprised by it than anything,” Elliott said on Monday morning. “I don’t think any driver wants to win that way. I certainly don’t.”
Elliott crossed the finish line third in the M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400. However, he admitted he wouldn’t celebrate being the next guy in line after the first two finishers were thrown out.
“I don’t really feel right celebrating someone else’s misfortune,” he said. “And it could change by Wednesday or Thursday or Friday (pending an appeal).
“I don’t know the details of what went on, I don’t know what made them make that decision. It’s not necessarily something I’m proud of or going to boast about throughout the course of this situation.
“I thought we were real fortunate to run third, to be honest with you. We started off OK and struggled through the mid portion of the event, and I thought for us to get back into the top five was really a good day.”
Elliott also missed the wreck involving Ross Chastain and Kevin Harvick when Chastain was forced out of the groove by Hamlin. Chastain bounced off the wall at the exit of Turn 1 and came back across traffic where he somehow only collected Harvick as the field charged by.
“I thought we were lucky,” said Elliott. “Again, no race car driver wants to win that way, and whether it gets overturned or not, I’m not going to celebrate somebody’s misfortune or whatever for that situation. That doesn’t seem right to me. I crossed the line third. That’s how I’m looking at it.”
Elliott also isn’t going to be asking for the winner’s trophy from Hamlin.
“If he wants to keep it, he can keep it as far as I’m concerned,” Elliott said. “He crossed the finish line first. I haven’t really thought about that, but I didn’t feel like I earned it on track yesterday. So, if he wants to keep it, then I’m good with that. I’m not going to ask for it.”
In the last month, Elliott and the No.9 Hendrick Motorsports team have finished no worse than second. That’s five consecutive races where Elliott either won – Nashville, Atlanta, Pocono – or finished second – Road America and New Hampshire. He continues to lead the overall points standings and control the regular season championship and has now separated himself from the field in playoff points.
Four wins and five stage wins give Elliott 25 playoff points, the most in the series. Chastain has the second-most at 14. Should Elliott claim the regular season championship that is an additional 15 points to add to his total going into the postseason.
“They’re certainly nice to have, for sure,” said Elliott. “It’s what you want. It’s what we strive to achieve at the beginning of the season, and I think anything you can do to hedge your bet at a shot to Phoenix is very helpful, and putting those bonus points in that bucket for the playoffs is the best way to do that.
“We’ve never really been in a position throughout the course of my career to have very many going into the playoffs, so this is unique and a bit different.
“Even if you take the win away [from] yesterday, we’re in a better place from a bonus point perspective than I can recall being in going into the final 10.
“So, I’m proud of that regardless of yesterday’s stuff and looking forward to these five races to try to get some more. I think there are still opportunities ahead of us to continue to hedge that bet.
“It’s never a guarantee; we’ve seen guys with seven, eight, nine wins not make it to the final four. However, it does hedge your bet and anything you can do to help yourself is what we want, and obviously, the regular season championship is a good way to do that.
“Those 15 points are huge. I would love to have them, and we’re going to strive to achieve that as well.”