Editor’s note: This continues the series of season reviews for select 2022 NASCAR Cup Series drivers.
See more: Bubba Wallace, Erik Jones, Martin Truex Jr., Alex Bowman, Kevin Harvick, Tyler Reddick, Kyle Busch, Austin Cindric, Austin Dillon, Daniel Suárez, Chris Buescher, Chase Briscoe, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin
Driver: Chase Elliott
Car: No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Crew chief: Alan Gustafson
Final 2022 ranking: 4th
Key stats: 5 wins, 12 top fives, 20 top 10s, 3 poles, 857 laps led
How 2022 ended: When you are a recent NASCAR Cup Series champion, the 2022 regular season champion and a favorite to hoist another trophy, any other outcome is understandably disappointing. So despite all the positives of a stellar season, Elliott’s fourth-place finish in the championship race at Phoenix was a bit of a disheartening way for such a promising season to end for the young superstar. He finished the championship finale in 28th place – two laps down – after his Chevy made contact with fellow playoff driver Ross Chastain’s Chevy on a late-race restart. It forced Elliott’s famous No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to pit road for repairs during the green flag run that ultimately settled the trophy. And so for the second consecutive year, Elliott finished fourth in the championship – earning only a trio of top-10 finishes in the 10-race championship run.
Best race: With a series-best five victories on the season, Elliott had a lot of reason to smile during the year, but it was a heartwarming victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway during the summer that truly hit home – literally. Elliott led a race-best 96 of the 260 laps and then held off Corey LaJoie in a final-lap duel to claim his first NASCAR Cup Series trophy at his family’s “home track.” The Elliotts hail from nearby Dawsonville, Georgia, and the locals were absolutely overjoyed to celebrate their hometown hero’s win.
Stat to know: Elliott’s first regular season championship propelled him to career-high numbers in the final tally. His five wins were most in the series as were his 857 laps led. Only one driver bettered Elliott’s 20 top-10 finishes (Ross Chastain had 21) and the No. 9 team netted six stage wins, tied for fourth most all season. The 46 playoff points Elliott accumulated were easily the most in the series and his fifth Most Popular Driver award leads all active drivers.
Quotable: “It was a solid year, especially through the summer months. That was probably as good as I remember running throughout the summer. Unfortunately, the last nine or 10 [races] weren’t great. I actually thought Phoenix was pretty solid for us as far as how car drove and how the day was going. The nine weeks prior to that were pretty rough but I thought the 10th was moving in the right direction, which was good, so nice to kind of end on a high note from a car perspective. …
“This sport will humble you in a hurry and I don’t think anyone’s ever immune to that especially now with the way everything works and with all the winners and things we saw this year. I don’t think you’re immune to that regardless of how good a season you had until that point. You have to stay on it and it’s easy to miss a little bit here and there and have a bad day.”
Looking ahead: With a year under everyone’s belt in terms of preparing, driving and racing the Next Gen car, Elliott was optimistic that he ended the season on a positive note despite missing out on a second series title. He added victories at three new tracks in 2022 (Nashville, Atlanta and Pocono) – paced the entire field in wins and laps led, and again, boasted at least 20 top-10 finishes for the third straight year. Elliott, who signed a five-year contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports in February, is in an enviable position. Nothing but greatness is expected from the 27-year old and that No. 9 team. It’s just navigating the challenges and staying on what he’s already established is a championship path.