Chase Elliott broke through with his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins to highlight his 2018 season.
The third year driver scored a popular win at Watkins Glen in August and followed that up with two more trips to Victory Lane. Overall the Hendrick Motorsports driver registered 11 top-five and 21 top-10 finishes on his way to finishing sixth in the final point standings.
“Definitely better than my first two (seasons) for sure,” Elliott said. “The win standpoint is nice and just to get that hurdle done is a big deal for our team. We struggled so much the first half.
“You have to peak when it counts and I felt like we did peak during the playoffs but just not quite enough.”
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The Glen win was the 250th for Hendrick Motorsports and Elliott added victories at Dover and Kansas to become the second youngest driver in series history to score three victories.
Those second two wins came in the playoffs to advance Elliott to the Round of 8 for the second time.
However, his hopes to make it to Homestead-Miami Speedway and the Championship 4 race ended when he was involved in an accident at ISM Raceway in Phoenix the week before.
“Yeah, don’t speed before that and you don’t get caught back there in the back,” Elliott said in reference to an earlier race penalty. “It was completely my fault and when you make mistakes like that, you get put behind and that’s when you get wrecked. So, I had a pretty good NAPA Chevy, especially on the long runs.
“We could run with those guys. I couldn’t get going quite as good as I wanted to. But if you stay away from that penalty (speeding on pit road) you never know.”
Although he came up short of the ultimate goal to compete for a championship, Elliott believes there was some good to come out of his experience down the stretch.
“You just have to make the most of opportunities,” he said. “The whole year counts. Those guys, winning a lot of races throughout the season, is what kept them away from a pressure-filled situation.
“All the bonus points they built up pretty much got them to Homestead, and that that’s the way that step stone is meant to work. It pays to win. So, we’ll try to win more next year.”
He’ll return to the Hendrick organization for a fourth year in 2019 again paired with crew chief Alan Gustafson in hopes of having an even better season than this year’s.
“The 9 team is actually the exact same next year,” Elliott said. “It’s been pretty cool, I’ve had the same group my first three seasons and we don’t hate each other yet so we are going to try again next year.”
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