Chase Elliott, NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver, made his return to the race track in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series NOCO 400 at Martinsville Speedway after a six-week layoff due to an injury sustained in a snowboarding accident in Colorado.
At the end of 400 hard-fought laps around the 0.526-mile paperclip in Virginia, Elliott climbed from his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro and took a seat to gain his composure after a gritty performance on a long, warm day at the track.
After he cooled off, Elliott got back to his feet and talked about how his surgically repaired left leg held up. According to the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion, the leg wasn’t his issue on Sunday, as much as it was his lack of conditioning due to being at home for the last six weekends.
“Yeah, I feel fine. I’m definitely tired just because I’ve been sitting on the couch like I said,” Elliott explained. “Other than that, my leg is stiff. My knee is stiff, but I don’t hurt or anything like that. So, about where I thought I would be.”
The 27-year-old says that no alterations were made to the interior of his race car, as he typically doesn’t utilize his left foot inside the car. Following the race, he doesn’t see any changes needing to be made for his comfort going forward.
“Everything, I thought was really, really good. And that’s just how I have it. We didn’t do anything inside the car. Fortunately, it was already prepared to have the left leg stabilized and in a good spot,” Elliott said.
While it’s good to hear that one of the most prolific racers currently in the NASCAR Cup Series held up fine in his first race back from injury, the race got off to a little bit of a slow start for Elliott. While many figured that Elliott had taken it easy in the early going of the event, Elliott explained that was not the case.
“No, no. We were just that bad,” Elliott chuckled.
While the No. 9 car was far from being a true contender for the majority of the race, Elliott’s crew chief Alan Gustafson continued to tweak the car all race long, and by the last run of the race, Elliott and the No. 9 team were in a position to snag a good finish, they did just that.
Considering how far off his car was all race long, and the fact that this was his first race back, Elliott couldn’t be more proud to walk out of Martinsville with a 10th-place finish.
“Like I said, to get a top-10, I thought that was something to be proud of, especially with how bad we ran all day,” Elliott stated. “I mean, shit, we were barely hanging onto the lead lap. Probably deserved to go a lap down there for a long time. I was proud of that. Good fight and way to finish strong.”
With the solid finish, Elliott climbed three positions in the NASCAR Cup Series championship standings to 31st. And while he remains mathematically alive as far as pointing his way into the 2023 Playoffs, Elliott can make his life a lot easier by scoring a victory between now and the end of the post-season.
The native of Dawsonville, Georgia has a medical waiver and, as he showed on Sunday, he still has the determination to get results on the race track. If he can get a win, he’ll have a chance to turn a season that appeared to be dashed due to a broken leg, into a potential second NASCAR Cup Series championship.
Here is a video of Elliott speaking to the media after Sunday’s NOCO 400 at Martinsville Speedway