HOMESTEAD, Fla — Chase Elliott came into Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 with a simple plan – defend their position in the NASCAR Cup Series standings. They came into the day +17 and on a track that he’s never won at and on a season that he was backing his way into the race, why not take it easy and ensure they have a similar advantage in points heading to the Round of 8 elimination race next week?
“We were playing defense all day, but we were doing a pretty good job of it and staying inside the top-five there, so that was great,” Elliott said.
The 2020 series champion started 3rd and finished 8th and 6th respectively in the two stages netting him 8 stage points. That was the good. However, he pit on Lap 208 as they decided to go off strategy and pit twice during the final stage.
Again, playing conservative and being on the defensive effort instead of on the offensive mindsest. It cost them. Ryan Blaney pit the same lap as Elliott and Blaney made a costly error by downshifting while exiting pit road and spun bringing out the 4th caution of the race.
It pinned Elliott a lap down and as a result, had to take the wave around just to get his lap back. Marred in traffic and dirty air, he could only muster a 14th place finish in the end.
“That’s what happens when you’re playing defense, and you have something like that happen to you. You just get stuck,” he continued. “The other guys that got buried; they drove right back to the front. That’s just the difference. I think if we execute next weekend, we’ll be fine.”
Elliott now sits in third in the points, +11, going to a race that will see at least two drivers make it to Phoenix on points. That’s because Elliott’s teammate Kyle Larson won on Sunday solidifying an extra wildcard spot to the Championship 4.
Elliott has finished 14th or worse in 3 of his last 4 Homestead starts and has been outside the top 10 now in 7 of the last 9 weeks on the season.
However, Martinsville is up next serving as the elimination race and that’s a place Elliott thrives at.
Elliott won the pole and dominated the first two stages back in the spring before a pit road penalty relegated him to a Top-10 instead of a Top-5. Elliott won the 2020 Fall race en route to a Championship 4 appearance here. He also has four Top-5’s in his last seven Martinsville starts, three of them being in the top two.