Editor’s note: This continues a series where we review the top 20 drivers in 2023 NASCAR Cup Series points.
Season in review: Chase Elliott
No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Crew chief: Alan Gustafson
Final 2023 Ranking: 17
Key stats: 0 wins, 7 top fives, 15 top 10s, 195 laps led
How 2023 ended: You’ve heard the well-worn sports axiom “finished a season strong?” In Chase Elliott’s case, the 28-year-old didn’t finish as strongly as perhaps he would’ve liked. Things were looking good initially: his runner-up finish in the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course began a streak that would see him record eight top-11 finishes in the next nine races. However, his season ended with showings of 32nd (Las Vegas Motor Speedway), 15th (Homestead-Miami Speedway), 17th (Martinsville Speedway) and 16th (Phoenix Raceway).
Best race: Elliott’s best showing was a runner-up finish at Fontana and again in the Brickyard 400. Two races before the Brickyard (Richmond Raceway), Elliott had even pulled within 40 points of the top 16 in terms of playoff eligibility – only to drop to 62 points below the elimination line even with his success at Indianapolis. Although there were positive glimpses, Elliott unfortunately could not find the consistent success he showed during his California running.
Other season highlights: The son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott came into the season picked by several outlets as the favorite to win the 2023 NASCAR Cup championship. Other than earning seven top-five and 15 top-10 finishes in 29 starts, the 2020 Cup champ endured inconsistencies that came from simply missing time. Those included missing six races after suffering a leg injury (and resulting corrective surgery) in a snowboarding incident in addition to a one-race suspension for intentionally wrecking Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600.
Stat to know: There actually are three key stats to know about Elliott’s 2023 season: 1) Failed at least one win for the first time since 2017; 2) Missed the playoffs for the first time in his Cup career; 3) Finished a career-worst 17th in the standings (his previous worst season finish was 10th in 2016 and 2019).
Quotable: “For the most part, (2023 has) been certainly not what I expect of myself and what we expect of our team. (There’s) a lot of room for improvement, and we intend to do a lot of that going into next year. It all needs to be better; you’re always wanting to be better. I think we’ve learned a lot about ourselves and the things that I need to do better.”
Looking ahead: Heading into 2023, no one saw Elliott’s snowboarding injury and resulting six-race layoff coming. Barring any other mishaps or maladies (he did have successful minor surgery to his right shoulder in mid-November), he should return to his old form and once again qualify for the playoffs in 2024. Look for Elliott to have heightened motivation and drive as a way to rebound from the season prior. Reaching the Round of 8 and potentially being a Championship 4 contender should be in the cards for one of NASCAR’s premier stars.