Although Chase Elliott has rattled off a streak of seven consecutive top-10 finishes, the NASCAR Nationwide Series points leader and Sunoco Rookie of the Year frontrunner sees his first series trip to Talladega Superspeedway for this weekend’s Aaron’s 312 as bit of a roadblock … at least based on his performance at Daytona International Speedway.
“I thought my performance at Daytona was pretty pitiful, honestly,” Elliott said about his respectable 15th-place finish in the season opener. “I didn’t feel like I did a very good job learning the draft as quickly as I needed to. So hopefully I can step up for the guys (at Talladega). The biggest thing there is just trying to stay out of trouble. It’s much easier said than done.”
His performance over the past three weeks has more than made up for his Daytona finish; however, some would be envious of the thought that a 15th-place finish was their worst result of the season. At Texas, Elliott, the son of 1988 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Bill Elliott, shocked the NASCAR world with his first series win, only to do it again the following week at Darlington. He followed up his consecutive victories with a runner-up finish last weekend at Richmond where he gave Kevin Harvick a run for his money over the final laps.
During that time span, the younger Elliott has increased his points lead over JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith from three points (after Texas) to 19. In addition, he holds a 34-point advantage over Ty Dillon in the rookie race.
Regardless of how Elliott fares this weekend at Talladega where drafting prowess always provides a decided edge over competitors, there is still enough season left in which he can bounce back if he were to stumble. And unlike NASCAR’s other two national series that return to the 2.66-mile track in October, this is the NASCAR Nationwide Series’ only visit to Alabama. The series, however, does have its annual July trip to Daytona coming up, but another top-15 finish there would leave Elliott in a good position.