Everyone has been down on the Hendrick Motorsports organization over the last several months. I mean, rightfully so. They’ve not looked the part of a serious championship contender since really when the calendar turned June. The drivers have all mentioned that they’ve somehow lost a step from their dominating early start.
But, the playoffs are here and this may be the time for the annual playoff Chase Elliott to heat up.
Elliott, has entered this year’s postseason like he has in the past — quiet. He won the Daytona road course, but that track took the place of Watkins Glen and the Georgia native won in each of the last two previous years on the upstate New York road course too. He was quiet before that point of the season as well.
Now, his No. 9 Chevrolet has finished in the top 10 in six of his last seven races run. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Elliott jump out of the gates for Sunday’s Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN) with a win.
In the opening race of the playoffs in his four years in Cup, Elliott has three top five finishes. Heading into this season, 15 of his then 42 top five finishes were in the playoffs including three of his six career wins.
Playoff time is Elliott time. He’s made it to the Round of 8 in each of the last three years, he’s just not had the luck in the Round of 8 to get to a Championship 4. Maybe this is his year.
“I think just winning more consistently,” Elliott said on what he needs to do to make himself a viable contender in the postseason. “We see the 11 and the 4 and those guys winning about every other week. When they’re not winning, they’re running second or third, right? You got to be doing that. You got to be up front more often. You can’t hit it one week, then be off for three weeks, then hit it again, then be off for another three weeks, expect the cards to fall your way.
“I think for us, I look back to how we started the season, and I thought we were running really competitively. Is that a word? I felt like we were really close to where we needed to be.
“After the break I feel like we fired off good. Seems like we got behind a little bit. Then at Dover I thought we were better than what we had been. We just got to get that consistency we had at the beginning of the season and when the break was over. I think we could compete with really whoever.
It could all start with a win on Sunday as Elliott was 10th in this race in 2016, 11th in 2017, fifth in 2018 and fourth and 38th respectively in May of this year. That 38th is an enigma though as he had that race won if not for late race contact with Kyle Busch while running second. Leader Denny Hamlin was on old tires. Elliott, would have gobbled him up. Unfortunately, Busch got into the back of Elliott and crashed him. Then, it started raining.
Elliott, is going to be a factor this weekend.