Elliott excited to compete at Monster Mile

Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott

DOVER — After a solid run at one of his worst racetracks, Chase Elliott is excited to see what his team can do at one of his best.

The rookie is very much in contention for NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. He is coming off a 13th-place finish at Loudon, New Hampshire and sits in ninth place as the Chase enters the last race of the first round, Sunday’s Citizen Soldier 400 at Dover International Speedway.

“For us, I was really proud of the way we ran last weekend,” Elliott said. “We ran inside the top five the majority of the day. That was a huge improvement for our group. Loudon is a terrible race track for me, so I was really happy with just the fact that we were able to be kind of in that top group.”

Elliott nearly won the last race at Dover, which was the first time he raced at the track in the Cup series. The 20-year-old had to settle for third after a late-race battle with eventual winner Matt Kenseth and Kyle Larson.

Elliott has finished in the top-10 at Dover in all four XFINITY races he has entered at the track.

The Chase field will be trimmed from 16 to 12 drivers on Sunday. A win would clinch advancement, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick have already won the first two races of the round to seal their spot in the Round of 12.

Elliott has yet to win in the Cup series yet, but has eight top-fives and 14 top-10s. His career best is a second place finish to Larson a few weeks ago at Michigan.

“I think we are moving in the right direction on some items that I think we’ve been missing,” Elliott said. “That is encouraging to me.”

If one of Harvick or Truex Jr. does not win, Elliott would clinch his spot in the next round with at least a 10th-place finish or an 11th-place finish if he leads a lap. If Harvick or Truex does win, Elliott would just have to finish 15th or better to advance.

Elliott is in such a good position thanks in large part to a third-place finish in the opener of the Chase at Chicago.

“I definitely feel like we have an opportunity to get there for sure,” Elliott said of advancing. “I think we’ve been fast enough these first two weeks to get there.  I think a lot of it is just going to depend (on luck), just being fast doesn’t guarantee you to make it to this next round. I think we’ve been fast enough these first two weeks to do it, but obviously you have to have some things go your way throughout this deal and you’ve got to execute your races and try to stay mistake free.”

For a rookie who had just five Sprint Cup races under his belt entering this season, Elliott hasn’t been bothered by the pressure of the Chase so far.

“This first round has been pretty normal as far as the races go,” he said. “And how I’ve seen people driving and what not.  I feel like has been pretty similar to the races throughout the year.”

“I think if you make it further into the deal it will ramp up, I’m sure,” he added. “I mean it has to as you start eliminating more guys and it gets down to a smaller group of people.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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