After finishing 37th in the season-opening Daytona 500, the only way for Chase Elliott to go was up.
And Atlanta Motor Speedway proved to be the right place for the 20-year-old Elliott, as he placed eighth for his first career Sprint Cup top-10 finish in Sunday’s Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500.
“It was a solid day,” Elliott said. “I felt like on pit road, everything, Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) made good adjustments, the race went smooth.
“Obviously, not a lot of restarts, so a lot of it was green flag runs, which was different. I’m just happy that we finished today and that is a first for the year. Better than last week.”
While exhilarated at his finish, Elliott also was exhausted. The biggest reason for that fatigue was the 210-lap green flag run that began at the start of the race.
“That is as tired as I have been in a long time racing these cars,” Elliott said. “That was a long day.”
The scheduled 325-lap race was extended five laps and ended under caution following a four-car last-lap wreck.
Elliott was hoping for a top-five finish, but it didn’t work out in the closing laps.
“I wish I had a better last restart there,” he said. “We had an opportunity to get a couple more spots there and every spot is valuable in this deal. You look at it as need to do a better job.
“I guess (Kevin Harvick) spun his tires and it got wild there. I wish I hadn’t lost those spots there. I just kind of got loose on the bottom and didn’t get going like I wanted to.
“We are excited about today. I think it is something to build off of. It’s not perfect, it’s a start.”