Heartbreak rode with Chase Elliott again.
Four nights after his bid to win at Darlington ended when Kyle Busch’s contact wrecked him, a pit decision took away Elliott’s chance to win the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“This week has been pretty unfortunate,” Elliott said after finishing second to winner Brad Keselowski. Elliott crossed the finish line third but teammate Jimmie Johnson’s car was disqualified after failing post-race tech inspection, moving Elliott up a spot.
Just around midnight, a caution came out for teammate William Byron’s spin with Elliott leading. That caution sent the race into overtime.
Then the decision for each team was if to pit.
Joey Logano showed a driver could stay out on older tires Sunday night and hold the lead. He won Stage 3 by keeping the lead for 19 laps after a restart despite having older tires than most of the field. Elliott tried to do the same thing then but had a poor restart. He was third on the restart and finished the stage 18th.
The dilemma facing Elliott and crew chief Alan Gustafson was stay out and keep the lead while many in the field likely would pit for tires, or pit and try to come through the field.
“You just make the best decision you can based on information you have,” Elliott said. “People behind you are going to do the exact opposite of what you do. That was the situation we were put in. Alan made a decision and we stuck with it and it didn’t work out.”
Gustafson called Elliott to pit road. Eight cars stayed out. Elliott was the third car off pit road with four tires, putting him 11th on the restart.
After the race, Busch consoled Elliott.
“He just felt bad for us,” Elliott said when asked about what Busch told him.
Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson says Elliott will be able to bounce back from his difficult week.
“He’s been through some tough ones already,” Johnson said. “He does a nice job of getting away and letting the frustrating things that happen roll off his shoulders. He is a younger guy, but he is an old soul.
“He’s been around racing his whole life. He’s watched his dad go through stuff. He’s lived and experienced a lot on his own right. He’ll just come back more motivated and hungry. Alan Gustafson is about as good as they get in the garage area. With Alan’s leadership, they’ll dust themselves off and be back on Wednesday (for the 500-kilometer race at Charlotte) and be ready to roll.”
That’s all he can do.
“There really is no other option,” Elliott said. “I can’t rewind time.”