MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Chase Elliott came within feet of passing Brad Keselowski in the final laps for the win in Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway, going bumper-to-bumper with the No. 2 Team Penske Ford around each corner for multiple laps.
But he wasn’t able to make the right move in his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to take the lead in the final laps before the checkered flag waved.
“I tried to move up, tried to get some runs,” Elliott said. “Moved up with about five to go and was making a little time but obviously, not enough time and I was just trying to get back to his bumper. I thought maybe I could route him out of the way or something. It was going to be really hard to drive up next to him and pass him, so I was just going to have to get to his bumper and play some games and hope it went my way.”
Elliott, with eight starts at Martinsville in his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career under his belt, finished runner-up and notched his best finish at the short track, as well as his best result this season.
“We had a really, really solid car and this is the best shot we had to win to date this season,” said Elliott. “When you have cars like that and performances like we did today, you really need to capitalize.”
” … What happened at Fontana, that was a real bummer. So, to come back and be able to run inside the top five all day long and be as competitive as the winner of the race was, I think, is an improvement.”
This was the refresh that the team needed and they are pleased with what they brought to the table, giving credit to their equipment and smart decisions on pit road.
“It’s solid; it’s what you want to do,” said crew chief Alan Gustafson. “You really want to win, and you can sit here and critique it for a lot of reasons but ultimately, having the pace in the car is the key and if we have good cars, we can have performances like that. We finally had a clean day with a fast car. We needed a good finish.”
The Cup Series heads back to Martinsville Speedway for the first race of the NASCAR Playoffs Round of 8 and a finish like this has Elliott eager to be one of the ones competing in October.
“Ultimately, this is an important race track, coming back here in the fall,” said Elliott. “Hopefully we can run like we did today, maybe a little better and hopefully we’re still a part of the deal to make it matter.”
Elliott led 49 laps of the race after getting by Keselowski and noted that his car was just as strong, if not stronger, than the No. 2. But, he just couldn’t make it happen in the final laps.
” … I thought my car was working a little bit better than his on the first five or 10 laps, I thought that was my best shot to get him,” Elliott said. “Then I felt like he was a little better than me, or we evened out kind of after that and then it was just a matter of how we hit our mark. It was really easy to mess up and it was really just about who strung together two corners lap after lap after lap.”