CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Chase Elliott heads to Chicagoland Speedway this weekend stuck in the midst of a summer slump — but also armed with motivation to turn that around in the opening race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
For the Hendrick Motorsports driver, advancing with consistency is just as much of a goal as nabbing that much-eluded first win in NASCAR’s premier series.
“I’d love to advance as far as we can, but I’d love a win,” Elliott said during NASCAR Playoffs Media Day on Wednesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “That’s what we’re here to do. We’ve had a year and a half to do it, and haven’t. I take a lot of pride in wanting to win.”
These next 10 races leading up to the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway are a stretch of races when Elliott & Co. seemed to find a bit of rhythm last season; he came up two spots short of a win in the 2016 playoffs opener at Chicago, and followed that up with seven top-15 results in the final nine events.
As a sophomore driver, Elliott looks to only improve on that.
“I look at last season, it was actually pretty similar I feel like to where we are right now performance-wise,” Elliott said. “A tough summer stretch. We had a few races that we ran good in the summer months last year that I don’t think we hit on as good this year. Still ran well at some of those tracks.
“I think the biggest thing with that is success in one season doesn’t guarantee success in the next. So, sure, we know we need to be better, as does everybody. But like I said, you hit on one thing at the right time, it can carry you forward. We know that as a group. I can’t say our mindset is a whole lot different.”
These next 10 races also mark the final events Elliott will pilot the No. 24 Chevrolet before passing the torch to young William Byron next season. Instead, Elliott’s ride will feature the No. 9, a number that has always been special to the Elliott family and made famous by Chase’s father and Hall of Fame driver Bill Elliott.
But the No. 24 obviously has an esteemed legacy of its own with Jeff Gordon being the only driver to win a premier series race with that iconic number.
Elliott wants to add to that legacy.
“It’s been a cool honor to have that,” he said. “It would mean a lot to me to add to the win list that Jeff has created with that car over the years while I still have the chance.
“I think that’s an obligation of mine, to try to achieve that. That’s on my priority list.”