The only playoff driver who left Dover last weekend truly happy was Chase Elliott.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver held on to win Sunday’s race and secured himself in the Round of 8.
The remaining 11 playoff drivers have two races left to get into the next round. To do that, they’ll first have to survive this weekend’s race at Talladega (2 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC).
But Elliott, who now has two career Cup wins, knows he can’t get too comfortable at Talladega.
“I think it’s nice to be able to know you’re going to move on, but you can’t get complacent in the fact that you are moving on,” Elliott said in a media release. “You can’t let those points just sit out there and not try to go get them because those bonus points you get for winning or winning a stage … that’s huge, and you need as many as you can get.”
Entering this weekend, Elliott owns 13 playoff points. Ten of those come from winning at Watkins Glen and Dover. The other three are from stage wins at New Hampshire, Watkins Glen and Pocono.
Of the 12 playoffs drivers, Elliott is tied with Ryan Blaney for the eighth most playoff points. That puts him ahead of only Kyle Larson (six playoff points), Aric Almirola (one) and Alex Bowman (zero).
“One or two points could be the difference in you making the Round of 4 or not,” Elliott said. “Just knowing that and not being complacent with the win and trying to go get another one or two before it starts I think is important.”
Like most of the field, Sunday’s race will be Elliott’s eighth restrictor-plate points race of the stage era.
But Elliott’s record in the first seven leaves a lot to be desired.
Since the 2017 Daytona 500, Elliott has earned stage finishes three times in plate races. Those all came in the first stage.
Those seven races include four DNFs for Elliott due to crashes. In the races he finished, Elliott placed 14th (2017 Daytona 500), 22nd (2017 July Daytona) and third (2018 Talladega April).
Last spring’s Talladega race was Elliott’s first bright spot on the 2.66-mile track since he led 27 laps and finished fifth in his first start there in May 2016.
He placed 12th in the fall race and then crashed in both 2017 races.
Though he didn’t earn a stage finish in last April’s Talladega race, Elliott was the only non-Ford driver to finish in the top seven.