There’s no question 2018, his third full season in the Cup Series, was a breakthrough year for Chase Elliott.
The son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott not only won his first career Cup race (Watkins Glen), he followed that up with two more wins at Dover and Kansas. Even with those wins, Elliott finished sixth in 2018, as compared to finishing a career-best fifth – yet winless season – in 2017.
Still, as he approaches the 2019 Cup season, the driver of Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 9 Chevrolet is ready to build upon last season’s performance.
“It’s kind of a fresh start in a lot of ways,” Elliott said. “I think definitely there was nothing negative about the wins and things.
“I obviously wish we could have finished a little stronger those last handful (of late season races), but it’s hard to piggyback off of a win and the month of, what was it, September (or) October and then continue that in the end of February. But we’ll try our best and try to get rolling.”
Even with his racing pedigree and lineage, Elliott admits he struggled at times in his first two full-time Cup seasons in 2016 and 2017.
“The first two, I had some ups and downs, (with) obviously last year being the best of the three,” Elliott said. “It’s kind of hard to believe that this will be year four. It’s gone by really fast.”
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Elliott — who won his first NASCAR Most Popular Driver Award after last season — is also entering his fourth Cup season with crew chief Alan Gustafson.
“I have a lot of confidence in him, and (it’s) nice to feel from his end it’s mutual,” Elliott said of Gustafson. “I think that goes a long way.
“But our relationship really has been pretty simple. As I’ve told a lot of people, I kind of let him do his thing and he lets me do mine, and we really just go about our business that way. Our friendship has grown, I think, over the past couple years.
“We’re by no means best friends. I think he would tell you the same thing. But we work well together, and I think that we enjoy the competition aspect at a similar pace. And, he and I, I feel like, view a lot of things the same way from that aspect. And when you’re working with somebody and you’re in the roles that he and I are both in, I’m not real sure that there’s a much better fit or a better way to go about it.
“We keep things very simple or as simple as we possibly can, and we believe in our process of how we prepare for races, and yeah, look forward to doing it some more with him this year.”