Chase Elliott‘s Cup career will always be measured against Bill Elliott’s, his Hall of Fame father.
Saturday night at Richmond Raceway, the third-year driver matched his father in a stat both impressive and underwhelming.
Elliott, who remains winless, finished second for the eighth time in 86 Cup starts.
Bill Elliott was a runner-up eight times before visiting Victory Lane.
But Chase Elliott, whose result was aided by a series of late-race cautions, was the first to admit it wasn’t a product of the team having turned the corner completely in a mostly disappointing season.
“A very fortunate (set of) circumstances there at the end for us with the way the restarts went and having a short run there at the end, definitely in our favor,” the Hendrick Motorsports driver said. “It’s nice to be on the good end of things for the first time in a while. We have to be realistic about how we ran tonight. The result shouldn’t weigh in to how hard we worked this week because we have some work to do.”
Though he started a season-best second in the Toyota Owners 400, Elliott wasn’t a factor in the race’s outcome until he restarted in the top five for two restarts during final 11 laps. He finished seventh in Stage 1.
The second place was his second top five of the season (third at Phoenix) and just the fourth for HMS overall.
The No. 9 Chevrolet pulled off the feat despite not having crew chief Alan Gustafson, who was completing a two-race suspension for an L1 penalty after the Texas race.
In the first race without him, Elliott was involved in a Lap 3 crash at Bristol and finished 29th, 27 laps off the lead.
“I think we’ve been getting better, for sure, over the course of the past handful of weeks,” Elliott said. “I thought last week was really probably our best effort as a company. Obviously we crashed at the beginning. I felt like our car was solid throughout the whole weekend. Obviously, our teammates ran well.”
But Elliott said the team needs to be “realistic” about how the first night race of the season went.
“I think anybody amongst our team would say the same thing,” he said. “I’m not knocking anyone, anybody on my team or whoever, but we all know we need to do better.”