Twice in the Round of 8, Chase Elliott saw his chances of reaching the NASCAR Cup Series championship race go out the window with 10 laps or less remaining.
Two weeks ago, Elliott was wrecked from the lead at Martinsville by Denny Hamlin with just under three laps remaining, and Sunday at Phoenix, Matt Kenseth got around Elliott with 10 laps remaining and held on for the win. Elliott needed to score his first career win Sunday to advance.
Instead, Elliott finished second — again. According to NBC Sports, Elliott’s seven runner-up finishes are tied for the most without a win in NASCAR Cup Series history. He was understandably bummed after the race.
“It’s just very disappointing, and I just hate that — I just hate so bad for my team,” Elliott told reporters after the race. “They’ve been so close to winning a handful of races the past couple years, and just, like I told them after the race, at some point I’ve got to figure out how to close better, and I take responsibility for that.
“I felt like I gave it my all today, and we’ll try to go to Homestead next week, finish the season as strong as we can and then get ready to come at them next year as hard as possible.”
Despite not advancing, Elliott took solace in knowing he had overwhelming support from the Phoenix crowd. Elliott made contact with Hamlin Sunday with 43 laps remaining, in part for payback from Martinsville. The nudge resulted in a tire rub on the No. 11 and lead to Hamlin wrecking seven laps later. The crowd was on its feet after the wreck, applauding Elliott’s move that helped slingshot him to the front.
“Yeah, that means a lot to me to have great support and great fans,” Elliott said. “You know, I want people to pull for whoever they want to pull for and it be genuine, and if that’s me, then I certainly will take all the help I can get, so I appreciate each and every one of the folks here that came out, that had the right hats and shirts on and even the ones that didn’t.
“Happy to have them, and hopefully we can — I just want to make them proud someday and tried to do it today.”