By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Chase Elliott appeared to be cruising to a top-10 at Texas Motor Speedway until tire cording trapped the NASCAR Playoffs driver a lap down.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver was running inside the top-10 in the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 as the second Stage drew to a close. Elliott was forced to bring his No. 9 Hooters Give a Hoot Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE to pit road five laps sooner than expected. The Dawsonville, GA native ran out of fuel and had to switch to his reserve tank.
After Elliott left pit road, he immediately radioed his Alan Gustafson-led crew about a vibration. When the 24-year-old returned to pit road, his Hendrick crew found that his tires had started cording. When Elliott returned to the track, he was a lap behind the leaders.
Gustafson kept Elliott on track as the duo planned to take the wave around. However, both Clint Bowyer and eventual race winner Kyle Busch stayed on track, trapping the Team Chevy driver a lap down.
While Elliott ran in the free pass position for much of the final stage, the caution never waved. The NASCAR Cup Series driver took the checkered flag in 20th, the worst finisher among the Playoff drivers.
“I thought we were decent throughout the first part of the race and trying to kind of settle in there,” explained Elliott. “I thought we settled into a decent spot. We certainly weren’t fantastic, but I thought we were better than we typically are out here. So, that was good. Kind of got going through the mid-portion of the race there.
“Was trying to gain some track position to get some stage points there in that second stage and had a tire come apart that I didn’t realize was coming apart. So, I had to come back down pit road and fix that. And then we settled into where we typically do out here and finished in the back.”
The 20th-place finish left Elliott sixth on the Playoff Grid, 25-points behind the cut off held by Brad Keselowski. The five-year Cup Series veteran can point his way into the Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway. However, only a victory in the Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway can truly lock him into an opportunity to earn his first Cup Series title.
Photo: Harold Hinson / Harold Hinson Photography