Dawsonville NASCAR driver Chase Elliott may have delivered the most impressive Nationwide Series performance of his brief career, overcoming an early accident to finish sixth in the TreatMyClot.com 300 on Saturday afternoon at the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
The crash occurred on lap 72, immediately following a restart, when another Nationwide Series rookie-of-the-year contender, Dylan Kwasniewski, washed up the track surface in Turn 2 and right into Elliotts Chevrolet.
Elliot was running sixth with Kwasniewski in seventh prior to the wreck.
The contact pressed Elliott hard into the outside retaining wall and brought out the caution, the damage to his car forcing him to pit and eventually restart at the very back of the lead lap -- in the 16th position.
Ten laps after the restart, Elliott took his repaired car all the way back into the top-10 and into eighth, where he would begin chipping away at the top-5 during the remaining laps at the southern California speedplant.
Elliott had worked his way back to fourth when the final caution dropped with 20 laps to go.
His team opted for four tires and fuel but the damage to his right front fender caused a slight delay on the stop, dropping Elliott to 10th for the final restart.
With limited laps remaining and stiff competition inside the top-10 that included several Sprint Cup drivers, Elliott battled to the verge of a top-5, having to settle for sixth.
The finish was his fourth-consecutive top-10 and moved him to within eight points of his teammate and championship leader, Regan Smith with Trevor Bayne and Ty Dillon separating the two of them. Kyle Larson won the race.
We had a little hiccup on our last pit stop and lost a bit of track position, but overall we had a good day in our Napa Auto Parts Chevrolet, Elliott said. We were making the right adjustments and going in the right direction, but ended up tangling with (Kwasniewski) which actually made our car better than before, which was interesting.
All-in-all it was a frustrating end to a long day, but well definitely take sixth and carry this momentum to Texas in a couple of weeks.
Elliott will get to enjoy his first weekend off as a Nationwide Series driver this weekend before moving onto the Texas Motor Speedway Apr. 4 for the OReilly Auto Parts 300. That race will start at 7:30 p.m.