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Despite Broken Title Hopes, Elliott’s Fourth-Place Run Locks Hendrick No. 9 Into Owner’s Playoffs

Chase Elliott Daytona Chase Elliott Owner's Playoffs Chase Elliott NASCAR Cup
(Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)

For the first time in his career, Chase Elliott will enter the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs without a shot at winning the championship, after coming up short of a victory in Saturday’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona.

However, the Dawsonville, Georgia native’s failure to advance into the post-season doesn’t come from a lack of trying or performance for that matter, but rather a number of unorthodox setbacks throughout the year.

After the second race of the year at Auto Club Speedway, Elliott was snowboarding in Colorado when he suffered a broken tibia, an injury that would keep him sidelined from NASCAR Cup Series competition for six weeks.

Then, just a couple of weeks after returning to the series, Elliott would get slapped with a one-race suspension, after it was determined he intentionally crashed Denny Hamlin in the early stages of the Coca-Cola 600.

Those two things ensured that Elliott recorded a goose egg in the points-earned column for a total of seven races, making it nearly impossible to claw his way back into contention to secure a post-season spot on points.

But, as many of the drivers who were in the exact same position on Saturday will tell you, coming to Daytona International Speedway in a must-win situation is certainly not ideal with how out-of-line things can get in the closing stages of a race.

“I feel like we had an okay chance there, but Brad [Keselowski] and [Chris Buescher] just worked so well together there, and they were able to stay locked on,” Elliott said. “They were so locked on there, they just had a stranglehold on the top lane.”

Elliott, the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion, was able to come home in fourth place in Saturday’s 400-mile contest, finishing behind RFK Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher, as well as their Ford teammate Aric Almirola.

“I just couldn’t get to Kevin [Harvick] and stay there like that, and just make the bottom lane work,” Elliott added. “I kind of bottled it up there and just couldn’t get enough momentum going forward.”

Despite the fact that Elliott was unable to secure a victory and lock himself into the post-season, things are going to be a little big different for the Hendrick Motorsports driver, as the No. 9 Chevrolet team has locked into the Owner’s Playoffs.

In the seven events in which Elliott was sidelined, the 27-year-old’s cast of interim drivers was able to accumulate enough points to have the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro inside the NASCAR Cup Series Owners Playoffs on points standing alone.

“Obviously, we came up a little short, but nonetheless – I hate the way the season has gone, but proud to get the car into the owner’s championship,” Elliott said. “It’s a big deal to get in on the owner’s side, so hopefully we’ll try and go make some noise on that front, and just keep progressing and pushing to be better for next year. We’ll be better through all of this down the road.”

The positive to the No. 9 Chevrolet making the Owner’s Playoffs, is that now Elliott, Gustafson, and Hendrick Motorsports are able to treat the season’s final 10-race stretch like they’re competing for a championship – because in reality, they are.

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