WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (AP) — Chase Elliott is again at Watkins Glen Worldwide the place he received for the primary time at NASCAR’s high degree. Relaxation assured that final yr’s victory on the speedy highway course in New York’s Finger Lakes area will not be on his thoughts.
”Everyone needs to speak about final yr and that is nice,” Elliott mentioned Saturday earlier than qualifying. ”I am glad final yr occurred, for certain. Pleased with it. However we celebrated it when it was time to have a good time it and now will not be actually the time to have a good time it.
”It is out of my system. It is time to come again and attempt to run good,” mentioned Elliott, fourth to Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman within the first follow. ”I felt like we had an OK first follow, however we’ve got some work to do. It is powerful. Everyone’s actual shut.”
Not shut sufficient to Elliott. He captured the pole place for Sunday’s race, outdueling Hendrick teammate William Byron for the highest spot.
Final yr, Elliott had been mired in a confounding dropping streak because the begin of his Cup profession in 2016. His victory at The Glen got here in his 99th Cup begin and warranted him of his first spot within the playoffs. It additionally gave him an enormous dose of confidence after main a race-high 52 laps, outdueling Kyle Busch to win the second stage, and holding off Martin Truex Jr. on the finish.
Within the postseason, Elliott received twice extra – at Dover and Kansas – although he did not make the ultimate 4.
”Greater than something, being quick final yr was good,” mentioned Elliott, who handed Busch in a scintillating second section as the group roared and did not have to fret about him on the finish due to a defective gasoline probe that took Busch out of competition after a dominating opening section. ”That is what helps greater than something. Simply realizing that we had some first rate tempo. I believe that is a very powerful factor. You probably have tempo, then the remainder of it will possibly come. Hopefully, we are able to have that once more.”
Elliott has already certified for the postseason along with his win at Talladega in Could, however after 4 straight top-fives he hasn’t had a top-10 end within the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet since June at Pocono, seven races in the past.
The race over the two.45-mile pure terrain structure at Watkins Glen on Sunday gives an opportunity to achieve some momentum after that powerful stretch.
”The irritating ones are those you’ll be able to management. Making errors that we should not make and I should not make. Simply cleansing that stuff up,” mentioned Elliott, who in some way averted a crash in morning follow when Matt Tifft spun in entrance of him. ”It occurs. I am unable to say I am slowed down by it, however I actually wish to get issues happening the correct path. We nonetheless have time to try this. This may be nearly as good a spot as any to get issues entering into the correct route.”
In contrast to the relaxed environment in California on the highway course at Sonoma in June, the ambiance at Watkins Glen gives a unique vibe because the playoffs loom. There are solely 5 races remaining within the common season, and the factors are bunched-up on the cutoff line. Ryan Newman is ranked 16th and tied in factors with Clint Bowyer, and lurking 12 factors behind them is seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. The highest 16 drivers make the postseason and Johnson has by no means did not qualify for the playoffs since they had been instituted 15 years in the past.
Simply behind Johnson are Daniel Suarez, Paul Menard, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Chris Buescher, and among the many 4 solely Suarez has not received a Cup race. However Suarez has been stout at Watkins Glen with a mean end of three.5 and the third-best driver score.
”I’ve realized on this sport which you could by no means be too comfy,” mentioned Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola, two factors behind Elliott however with out a win. ”There are such a lot of folks hovering proper round that cutoff line and simply exterior that cutoff line that may win on any given weekend. I do know it won’t seem that manner, it seems the identical automobiles typically win, however everyone on this sport is simply too good. On any given weekend issues might simply line up for these guys and so they’re gifted sufficient, their groups are ok, their automobiles have gotten first rate velocity the place they may pull off a win. A 30-point hole – that may go away in a single race.”
Denny Hamlin’s victory final week at Pocono for Joe Gibbs Racing made it eight totally different winners within the final eight Cup races. There has not been a repeat winner at Watkins Glen since Marcos Ambrose in 2011-12. Elliott topped the second follow, nearly a full second forward of Martin Truex Jr., however mentioned it was a lot too early to consider that.
”It is form of onerous to inform,” he mentioned. ”There’s been occasions the place I’ve ended the day on Saturday excited and thought I had an opportunity and have been trash on Sunday. We’ll discover out tomorrow afternoon.”
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