The fight for the regular season championship might be over to some, but Ross Chastain isn’t ready to concede the title to Chase Elliott.
“I think, with the way these races go… Yeah, you just don’t know,” the Trackhouse Racing driver said at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Obviously [Elliott] has been super consistent the last couple of months, and we’ve been [close but bleeding] few points each race, and then obviously last week.”
Elliott and Hendrick Motorsports were awarded the win last weekend at Pocono Raceway when the Joe Gibbs Racing cars of Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch were disqualified from their top-two finishes. It was Elliott’s fourth win — two more than anyone else in the series. Chastain finished 32nd after hitting the wall while racing in close quarters with Hamlin for the race lead late in the going.
Five consecutive first or second-place finishes have put Elliott in a much more comfortable position as the points leader. It had been an open race between Elliott, Chastain, and even Ryan Blaney for the lead position that awards 15 playoff points after the finale at Daytona International Speedway.
With Elliott leading the way, second place in points became a hot potato position between Blaney and Chastain since Nashville in late June. After Blaney slid to third in points, 111 behind, two weeks ago after the race at New Hampshire, he felt his team could perhaps change up their approach going forward without focusing on the points lead.
Chastain has two wins and is 105 points behind Elliott. There are five races remaining in the regular season, including Sundays at the Indianapolis road course (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC).
“I’m proud of our effort, and I think we can keep going to battle with him,” Chastain said of Elliott. “We’re just focused on out-performing everybody and the points — it’s amazing. The points just pour your way when you run good and it’s wild to be accumulating the points we are in the Cup Series.”
Don’t be mistaken — Chastain and company have not, and will not, be points racing. The primary goal continues to be race wins and playoff points for the No. 1 team.
“Oh yeah,” Chastain said. “You’ve just got to stack them up. I’ve heard it from guys since the start of the playoffs, and now I’m finally in the position to realize it, but you just got to stock up those playoffs points.
“It was a big swing last week when we got the…win in Stage 2 because of the disqualification. That’s a big swing. It’s one point. It’s a position that, later on, you never know… You want to have them all stacked in your pocket.”