Season Review: Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott

"I can probably say that I’ve learned more from the second-place finishes this year than the ones last year." (Photo: Getty Images)

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2017 Race-by-Race Results | 2017 Detailed Statistics

Chase Elliott finished fifth in the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings to top all Hendrick Motorsports drivers.

Although he still wasn't able to capture that elusive first win, Elliott finished his sophomore campaign with 12 top fives, 21 top 10s, 560 laps led and an average finish of 10.8 - all personal bests - to top his teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne in those respective categories. 

After finishing second twice in 2016, Elliott once again came close to visiting Victory Lane, this time posting five runner-up finishes in 2017. 

"I can probably say that I’ve learned more from the second-place finishes this year than the ones last year," Elliott said. "A lot of those situations were very different from one another. I can kind of think back to some of the races and the races that I was more disappointed in being in the lead in some of those situations and losing it in the closing laps. Others being kind of on the offense in the closing laps and being able to get to second."

Chase ElliottElliott looked like he was going to erase being the bridesmaid right out of the gate in 2017 at Daytona International Speedway. Elliott won the pole for the Daytona 500 and won his respective Can-Am Duel. He led a 39 laps in "The Great American Race" only to see his lead evaporate with just two and half laps from the finish when the fuel cell ran dry.

The next week at Atlanta Motor Speedway Elliott would bounce back with a fifth-place finish. But it was Atlanta where Elliott took advantage of stage racing to earn points in the each of the opening two stages through the sixth race of the season at Martinsville Speedway. In that span, Elliott earned his first of three stage wins (Stage 2 Phoenix) of the season and collected a total of 79 stage points to boost him to second in the standings, where he stood for four races.

A stretch of four consecutive finishes of 24th or worse starting at Richmond Raceway in the spring dropped Elliott from second in the standings. He would pick back up steam at Dover International Speedway in June with his first of four consecutive top 10s, which included his first runner-up finish of the year at Michigan International Speedway.

Elliott entered the playoffs at Chicagoland Speedway as the 10th seed as a result of his two stage wins during the first 26 races and a four-point bonus for his final regular season standing. Elliott's playoffs got off to a fast start with a stage win and a second-place finish, but the finish was deemed encumbered for a L1 penalty - "Modification of components to affect the aerodynamic properties of the vehicle." As a result, Elliott lost 15 points and his crew chief Alan Gustafson and car chief Joshua Kirk for the race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Interim crew chief Kenny Francis was able to help guide Elliott to an 11th-place finish at New Hampshire. Gustafson returned atop of the pit box the next week and Elliott posted two consecutive second-place finishes at Dover International Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway, respectively. The Dover finish was particular tough on Elliott because he had the lead coming to the white flag before Kyle Busch passed him for the win.

“I’m just so disappointed in myself,” Elliott said after the Dover race. “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."

After finishing fourth at Kansas Speedway, Elliott entered the Round of 8 as the eighth seed. He opened the round by leading 123 laps at Martinsville Speedway. Elliott was out front with less than three laps remaining when Denny Hamlin got to the rear bumper of his No. 24 Chevrolet and made hard contact, sending Elliott around and into the wall, ending his shot at the win.

Chase Elliott"I got punted from behind and wrecked in Turn 3 leading the race," Elliott said. "I don’t know what his problem was. It was unnecessary I hadn’t raced him dirty all-day long."  

Hamlin and Elliott would meet again at Phoenix Raceway in the final race in the Round of 8. Hamlin dominated the race, but while the two were racing for third on Lap 270 Elliott made contact with Hamlin, which caused a left-rear tire rub on the No. 11 Toyota of Hamlin. The rub ultimately led to a tire going down for Hamlin and hard contact with the wall five laps later. 

"A wise man once told me that he'll race guys how they race him with a smile on his face, so that's what I did," Elliott said. "I raced him how he raced me, and that's the way I saw it. That's about all I have to say."

Elliott would go on to lead 19 of his 34 laps led in the race in the closing laps, but he was forced to settle for second again after being passed by eventual race winner Matt Kenseth on lap 303. 

"I felt like I gave my 110 percent, although very disappointed, again, to be so dang close to winning and having a chance to race for a championship," Elliott said. "Learning the hard way, I guess, in some ways, but it's hopefully making me a better person and making us better down the road." 

Elliott ended the season with three consecutive finishes of eighth or better. His 7.9 average finish in the 10 playoff races was second only to champion Martin Truex Jr., who posted an average finish of 4.3.

The 2018 season will see Elliott transition from the No. 24 to the No. 9 at Hendrick Motorsports.

"I’m excited about next year, we have some great things to build on," Elliott said. "We will see what next year brings and go from there.”

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