Chase Elliott is due for a win after 12 top-10 finishes in the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, including five runner-up finishes.
The Hendrick Motorsports rising star will pilot the No. 9 this year, switching to his father’s old number from the No. 24 that Jeff Gordon made legendary. And he will be in new equipment as Chevrolet moves from the SS to the ZL1 Camaro in Monster Energy Series competition this season.
What remains the same is his pairing with veteran crew chief Alan Gustafson, who has led Kyle Busch, Mark Martin and Gordon to Victory Lane in the past.
Will Elliott break through for a victory in 2018? We wouldn’t bet against it. But will he reach three wins in his third full season at NASCAR’s top level? Kathy Sheldon and Allie Davison go head-to-head, laying down their cards.
Sheldon: I’m taking the under. No question Chase Elliott has the tools and the talent. But that first victory doesn’t mean the dam will break wide open, and moving to a new car usually requires some shakedown time — just look at Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. Busch worked in a new Camry in 2017, and his first of five wins didn’t come until July 30 at Pocono, almost two-thirds of the way through the season. Harvick didn’t hit on a winning combination of speed and setup until almost halfway through 2017 in a Ford as Stewart-Haas Racing switched manufacturers. Each of them already had a championship under his belt. Plus other young drivers have found that second win is elusive as well: Ryan Blaney and Austin Dillon had single wins in 2017, and Kyle Larson only took the checkered flag once in 2016 before breaking out last season with four. Elliott could roll off three wins in 2018, but it’s a long shot.
Davison: If you’re not first … you’re last. At least that’s how the saying goes, and Chase Elliott knows exactly what it’s like to JUST miss crossing the start/finish line first. His five second-place finishes (three in the playoffs) throughout the 2017 season raised several eyebrows — and the spotlight has never been brighter for the rising star. Elliott has the foundation for a long, successful career. The Martinsville showdown with veteran Denny Hamlin gave Elliott a spark, which is why I’m on #TeamChaseWinsALot in 2018. The reasoning? It’s time. He debuts the new No. 9 Camaro this season. He has another full-time season under his belt. Most importantly he understands what second place feels like … and it isn’t fun. Once you hear ‘Elliott is the winner…’ expect to have that memorized, because it’ll be on repeat.