Restart issue may have cost Chase Elliott chance at first career Cup win

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Chase Elliott continues to be the most consistent driver of late in the Hendrick Motorsports stable.

The 20-year-old rookie earned a career-best second-place finish in Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

That’s the sixth top-five and 11th top-10 finish the son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott has racked up in the first 15 races of the season.

The younger Elliott also moved up one spot in the standings to a career-high sixth place.

Elliott started 10th and led 35 laps in the 200-lap event won by Team Penske’s Joey Logano.

Elliott finished just under one second behind Logano, who led the final 48 laps to claim his first points win of 2016.

“I had another fantastic car,” Elliott said. “My guys have been doing a really good job the past few weeks, and we’ve been just trying to give it all we can get to get one of these things.”

Elliott ran a smart race, save for a couple of restart issues – including one with 48 laps left where he had a hard time shifting and getting up to speed. As a result, Logano took the lead and never looked back.

“I definitely messed one up for them today,” Elliott said. “Just putting it in the correct gear would be a good start.”

Last week at Pocono Raceway, Elliott admonished himself for how he raced teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. after a restart. Elliott said he needed to have been more patient. Instead, his action allowed Kurt Busch by both into the lead. Busch didn’t give up the lead and earned his first win of the season.

“Well, we had a shot,” Elliott said after Sunday’s race at Michigan. “Kyle (Larson) gave me a really, really good shove on a restart, was able to get by him, and I felt like we could kind of control the pace when we were out in front of him.

“I thought that said a lot about our car, and once we had the lead there, I felt like we had a really good opportunity to control the rest of the race if we had good restarts and good time on pit road. Pit road was fantastic, and the restarts weren’t, so that was the difference.”

Given that he has finished in the top four in three of the last four races, it seems almost inevitable that Elliott will break through for that first Sprint Cup win soon.

But that still won’t stop him from lamenting about the one that got away Sunday.

“I think we had a fantastic opportunity today, and I think I messed one up,” Elliott said.

 

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