Chase Elliott left dejected after falling short of victory lane in Dover

Logan Whitton/NKP

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

Throughout the second half of Sunday’s Apache Warrior 400, it appeared that it might finally be Chase Elliott’s day in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

There was just one issue – that No. 18 Toyota kept getting closer and closer.

Elliott led a race-high 138 of Sunday’s 400 laps at Dover International Speedway. But over the final stint, he found himself in a difficult position, attempting to hold off a charging Kyle Busch while trapped behind lapped traffic in Ryan Newman, who was racing for his playoff life.

Elliott couldn’t find a way to maneuver around the 2014 Championship 4 contender on the bottom lane, allowing Busch to close up to right behind his No. 24 Chevrolet up high. Elliott left the top lane open coming off of Turn 2 on the race’s penultimate lap, and Busch capitalized.

One pass and six turns later Busch was shouting in celebration of a second-consecutive victory.

“It was all just lap traffic dependent,” Elliott said.  “I thought if I had a clean track, I could have run as fast as he did, but I didn’t, and I should have done something different.  So that’s just on me, and he did a better job than I did.  At the end of the day that’s what it comes down to.”

Meanwhile Elliott clutched at his head – trying to come to terms with another narrow defeat.

“I’m just so disappointed in myself,” Elliott said. “Golly, I couldn’t have had it any easier. It ran green from the stage break all the way to the end. And, I gave it away. I appreciate my team and their efforts today. The pit stops were great and they kept us in the ballgame. I didn’t.”

Third-place finisher and Hendrick Motorsports teammate came to Elliott’s side to console him after his fifth runner-up result, but the Georgian said it was of little help.

“I certainly appreciate his friendship and him willing to come over and talk to me,” Elliott said. “I think that kind of shows the kind of person he is, but it doesn’t fix my lack of performance this afternoon.”

The good news for Elliott and the No. 24 team is that the sophomore’s 18th-career top five was enough to earn him place in the Round of 12. Elliott advanced past the first round of the playoffs for the second time in as many years in the Cup Series, keeping his championship hopes alive.

Elliott enters the second round sitting 10th in the standings, four points behind the Round of 8 cutoff line with 3006 points.

He could still hoist the championship trophy at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but Elliott took no solace in his playoff advancement after a close loss at Dover.

“Not as much as the disappointment today,” Elliott said. “Man, such a bummer, such a disappointment for my team.  I don’t really have a whole lot to add.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *