As Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway neared its conclusion, Chase Elliot was baffled by the lack of aggression among those he was racing with behind winner Joey Logano.
Specifically, Elliott was at a loss trying to explain the actions of three other Ford drivers — Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — who finished with the Hendrick Motorsports driver’s No. 9 Chevrolet in the top five.
“I was really surprised with how patient they were being with one another,” Elliott said after taking third behind Busch and Logano. “Really thought they would want to win a little more than what they did, or at least showed to me.”
Elliott was one of three Chevy drivers in the top 10, but the only non-Ford driver in the top seven. He finished ahead of Kevin Harvick, defending race winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Aric Almirola and David Ragan.
“Those guys around me were working together so much,” Elliott said. “If it was me, I feel like I would have wanted to try or do something. Those guys weren’t having it. I was trying to move forward and make a lane and push, and they were not interested in advancing.”
Though Busch passed Harvick for second on Lap 187 of 188, but there were no other dramatic moves made to try to dethrone Logano.
Asked about Elliott’s comments that he was deliberately patient, Busch said, “Well, I mean, the guy that’s leading the race is pretty fast. The guy that’s second is really fast. The guy that’s third is fast. When you time together three guys that are from the same manufacturer (Ford), that’s what puts you in position to win.
“But then once it’s five (laps) to go, nobody’s really caring who’s got what brand underneath the hood, the shape of their car. It’s my job as a teammate to help Kevin a little bit further down into getting two to go, one to go. Then there’s Stenhouse, who has won a lot of these plate races recently. He came in there with a head of steam. I wanted to roll with him. Didn’t materialize. That’s how we got all strung out, trying to be the one guy by himself, where you need three to kind of hook up and go and try to pass the leader.“
Elliott improved a spot to third after Harvick got shuffled to fourth on the pass by Busch, his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate.
“I tried to kind of break out of line and do a couple things there,” Elliott said. “Like I said, it was very obvious that nobody was going to help around me. It’s hard to move forward. Even if I just had one other person to help, I felt like it would have made a big difference.”
The result was Elliott’s second consecutive top-three finish after a second at Richmond. It’s also his best finish in 10 restrictor-plate starts and his second top five at Talladega.
“It was a pretty wild afternoon,” Elliott said. “Cars were hard to drive. Scared some people off from running three‑wide and four‑wide. That was interesting, as well. So could have been worse.”