Chase Elliott and the entire Hendrick Motorsports race team were off to an incredibly slow start in 2019. Heading into Martinsville, none of the four HMS teams had recorded a top-five finish.
Luckily, Elliott — who started seventh — shot through the field like a rocket and was a contender all day long.
The 23-year-old would lead for the first time on the year as he held the point for a 49-lap stretch in the second half of the race. But ultimately he would lose the lead to Brad Keselowski on pit road.
Elliott would fight tooth and nail the rest of the way for the lead, but would come up just short as he finished second.
After the race, Elliott wasn’t sure what he could have done differently to best Keselowski.
“I don’t know. It was really tough. Our NAPA Camaro was good. I felt like we were about as even with him as we could be,” said Elliott. “When I did get the lead, I felt like there was a little advantage to being out front and being able to work traffic your way and play off it and whatnot. But, yeah, I tried to move up there at the end and I don’t know if I could have got to him. Maybe if I moved up a little sooner, maybe. But, I tried to get to him there in (Turn) 3, but maybe next time.”
It wasn’t a win, but a runner-up effort after a very strong performance must feel like one for Elliott and the HMS stable at this point in the season.
While Elliott continues to fly the flag for the organization, the rest of the team showcased that there is still a long way to go for the team to reclaim their place as NASCAR’s most elite team.
Alex Bowman wound up 14th, William Byron finishes 22nd after starting at the rear of the field and Jimmie Johnson struggled mightily to a 24th place finish at one of his best tracks.
Maybe the rest of the HMS squad can get a shot in the arm at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway next weekend.