Elliott returns with a top 10, and that's just fine by him

John Harrelson/Motorsport Images

Elliott returns with a top 10, and that's just fine by him


Elliott returns with a top 10, and that's just fine by him


Chase Elliott doesn’t usually settle for a good day at the racetrack and is often brutal with his self-evaluation, but the former NASCAR Cup Series champion was content to leave Martinsville Speedway with a top-10 finish Sunday afternoon.

The Hendrick veteran came on strong late Sunday afternoon in his return to the seat of the No. 9 Chevrolet for the first time since late February. Still recovering from a left leg injury from snowboarding that required surgery, and considering how bad his car was for most of the race, Elliott was “pretty happy” with the result.

“To get a top 10, I thought that was something to be proud of,” he said. “Especially as bad as we ran all day — I mean, (expletive), we were barely hanging on the lead lap. We probably deserved to go a lap down there for a long time.

“I was proud of that; good fight and way to finish strong. That’s always a good thing.”

Elliot chuckled when asked if he was conservative all during the 400-lap race.

“No, no, we were just that bad,” he said. “We were just that bad. We definitely got better; really, the only run (where) I thought we were decent was that last one, so that was nice to get there somewhat.

“I thought we were in the ballpark at that point but were just out of time. But it was really good to get in the top 10 there. That’s something to be proud of.”

There were no changes made to Elliott’s car to prepare for his return. He also feels secure in the cockpit and said it’s already positioned so that his left leg is stabilized.

After climbing from his car on pit road, Elliott took a breather sitting on the ground next to it. Other drivers, like Bubba Wallace, did the same after a hot day. Wallace and Ryan Blaney also came over to chat next to the No. 9 car.

Elliott was feeling more stiffness than pain in his leg and knee after the race.

“I feel pretty good; just about what I expected,” he said. “So, that was a good thing. It was definitely a tough race; probably because I’ve been sitting on the couch for six weeks more so than my leg. We’ll go home and get it tuned back up.”

Qualifying 24th put Elliott starting the race behind in track position and he struggled to break into the top 20. He finished 21st in the first stage and 25th in the second.

He averaged a 22nd-place running position Sunday afternoon, running as high as ninth and finishing 10th after driving into the top half of the leaderboard from 19th after the race’s final restart with 46 laps to go.

“I think I could have performed better, honestly,” he explained. “I don’t think my leg was stopping me from performing better. Once we got our car to a decent place (we) were just out of time. But all in all, a top 10 is nothing to be too upset about.”

With a warm welcome back from the fans and competitors out of the way, Elliott is looking forward to getting back into a racing rhythm.

“Now we can go back to work,” he said, “and hopefully get back to normal.”