Dawsonville NASCAR driver Chase Elliott continued his ascension up the Nationwide Series championship standings following his ninth-place finish in the Drive to Stop Diabetes 300 on Saturday afternoon at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The result was Elliotts third consecutive top-10 finish in his first four races to start his rookie season and elevated the 18-year-old prospect to fourth in the ranking, just 13 points behind his JR Motorsports teammate and championship leader Regan Smith.
Joe Gibbs Racing Sprint Cup Series teammates Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth led 299 of the 300 laps with Busch ultimately scoring the victory. Sprint Cup drivers occupied four of the top-5 positions, leaving Elliott fourth amongst those eligible to compete in the overall Nationwide Series championship.
Despite a competitive car and a top-10 running position, Elliott lost a lap to the leaders in the early stages of the race and struggled to regain his lost track position until he earned the free pass back to the lead lap on lap 135.
Upon returning to the lead lap, Elliott would race near the top-5 for the remainder of the afternoon and may have challenged for the victory if not for a disadvantageous restart position with nine laps to go.
One of the prominent features of the Tennessee half-mile oval is that the fastest away around the track is at the top of the racing surface, right up against the wall, placing those stuck at the bottom on the restart at a disadvantage, exactly like Elliott at the end of the race.
Elliott dropped from sixth to 12th on the final restart when his line failed to advance and was unable to recover most of the lost track position, finish ninth.
We fought all day, and Im proud of this NAPA team for that, Elliott said. We were up to fifth on that last restart but on the bottom it was just hard to get going. All in all it was a good day, and were looking forward to rest of the season.
Elliott and his Nationwide Series rivals will next travel to the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., on Saturday night for the TreatMyClot.com 300. The race will air on ESPN at 5 p.m. ET.
Matt Weaver is a motorsports contributor for the Dawson News & Advertiser.