With advancement to the Round of 8 on the line, Chase Elliott’s task Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway was plain and simple: He needed to win.
Coming into the race last on the Chase grid and 62 points behind series leader Jimmie Johnson in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, there was no other way Elliott could move on in the playoffs unless he ended up in victory lane.
As it turned out though, the rookie Sprint Cup driver wound up with a no-win situation, finishing 12th, falling short of the checkered flag and being eliminated from advancing to the Round of 8.
“We just came up short,” Elliott said. “We had a really good car again. You try to make stuff happen, and I felt like we were pretty aggressive trying to get to the bottom and try to make things happen there when it was at the top.
“I just couldn’t find myself in the right spot at the right time with the right folks behind us, or at least enough folks. We had some great pushers all day, and they knew our car was fast. It was helpful. We just came up short.”
Elliott was shuffled back on the final restart and couldn’t mount a last-ditch comeback in the final laps of the extended 192-lap event (original length was 188 laps).
“I don’t know what happened and how we got shuffled out,” Elliott said. “It was just kind of the sequence of events.
“All it takes is one move on someone’s part, and it can take you from the top five and outside the top 10. It doesn’t take much. We just came up a little short.”
Even though he fell short, there were some high points for Elliott. He led nine laps, looked strong early on and ran a very strategic and tactical race.
“We were trying to be as aggressive as we could and try to make stuff happen,” Elliott said. “It’s tough to do as you get back in the pack and try to make your way through the pack.
“It just takes time. There’s definitely a lot of power in numbers. We’re disappointed that we came up short. The NAPA team has been fighting hard the past few weeks. We’ve had some awesome racecars. … We’ll move on to Martinsville and try to go get them.”
Elliott admittedly was disappointed with the outcome but still felt he and his team gave it everything they had.
“We tried hard again this weekend, and we were able to lead some laps and stay up front for a good portion of the race there at the beginning,” Elliott said. “We couldn’t work our way back through there at the right time there at the end.
“It was just a matter of trying to get some power in numbers. Unfortunately we couldn’t get our lane to go when we needed it. By the time things started to happen, everyone was in a big rush. I don’t know what you can do. We’ll just look forward to Martinsville and go get it there.”