By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
The phone call came Saturday morning that Chase Elliott would replace Michael Annett in the Pennzoil 150 Xfinity Series race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Annett, who is still recovering from a leg injury last month, felt ill-prepared following Friday practice and gave Elliott the opportunity to climb aboard his No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet.
“I haven’t talked to [Annett], I didn’t have time to talk to him to talk to him before the race,” Elliott said. “I’m sure I’ll catch up with him here in a day or two. Our car was good, I wasn’t super impressed with myself today. I don’t feel like I’ve done a great job adapting to this track.”
Despite the feeling, his first Xfinity start since 2019 ended in the fourth spot. The 2014 series champion overcame multiple shunts with teammate Sam Mayer, as well as suffering a spin of his own through the infield esses.
In regards to the incident with Mayer, Elliott overstepped a curb to cause the contact. A mistake he regretted.
— NASCAR Xfinity (@NASCAR_Xfinity) August 14, 2021
“I tried to shade right and it ended up throwing me over left even worse,” he said. “Obviously, you hate to tear up a car. Especially a teammate. I hate that. Obviously not my intent to wreck him and hurting one of their cars.”
The result was his first top five in the series since 2018.
“Where I ended it, I felt it was a lot better than where I was this morning,” he said after qualifying 25th. “I’m very happy with that. It’s not exactly where want to be, but better for sure. It was worth the time.”
More importantly, prepped him better for Sunday’s Cup race where he’ll return to his Hendrick Motorsports No. 9.
“If I was just here to have fun and be entertained, there are parts on the track that I would love to go see,” he said. “But for us drivers trying to learn and get the full picture of what’s going on, there’s not as much we can do for that.”