Elliott waited outside his No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet, which had finished 14th in the Daytona 500.
For 23 laps on Sunday, it looked like Elliott had a good chance of being the one swarmed. After starting from his second consecutive pole in The Great American Race, Elliott had avoided the carnage of four wrecks with five or more cars and one that collected 17 cars.
Elliott took the lead for the final time on Lap 175. He stayed at the front of a single-line of cars for 23 circuits of the track his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, won at four times, including two Daytona 500s.
No one mounted a real run at the No. 24 car in that time.
As buzz of Elliott possibly earning his first Cup Series win grew with each lap, the amount of gas in the No. 24 diminished.
Then, with three laps to go, it was all gone. Elliott pulled out of line and watched as Martin Truex Jr. led the field by him on the backstretch.
Minutes later, the 21-year-old was left waiting.
“It was a disappointing finish to a good day,” Elliott eventually told a Chevrolet representative. “Just one of those things you can’t do anything about. I’m happy with how the NAPA team performed, and we are going to learn from it. I’m proud of how hard everyone worked all week. We’re looking forward to getting back at it in Atlanta.”
Elliott will head to his home track of Atlanta Motor Speedway still waiting on a chance to grab a win after 42 Cup Series starts. A chance that won’t disappear.
Ryan Blaney, who finished second and is a close friend of Elliott’s, said there’s no “what ifs” regarding his fate in Sunday’s race.
“If wishes were fishes, the world would be an ocean,” Blaney said. “You kind of play with the cards you’re dealt. You never know if they (the drivers behind Elliott) would have made a run or not. Unfortunately he ran out.”
AJ Allmendinger, who finished third in the Daytona 500 for the second time, understands any frustration Elliott has after another win slipped through his fingers.
“He’s going to win so many races,” Allmendinger said. “It’s hard to know how many chances you’re really going to have at the Daytona 500. … He had a dominant car. So I can understand it. It’s hard.
“At times, yes, it’s our job. We got to go about it the right way. Sometimes we don’t. In the end it’s our passion, it’s what we live off of. I can completely understand that. At that point, you’re not going to say anything good. What are you going to say, Oh, shucks.”
Sunday was the latest chapter of Elliott narrowly missing out on a chance to visit victory lane in the Cup series.
As a rookie last season, Elliott led on late restarts in both races at Michigan International Speedway. Both instances saw Elliott get bad starts. He then had a front-row seat as Joey Logano and Kyle Larson streaked to wins. In the fall Charlotte race, Elliott led 103 laps before his day ended with a 12-car wreck on Lap 259.
There were others, but they weren’t the Daytona 500.