Chase Elliott had an impressive run at Dover International Speedway last Friday finishing in the top-five of the Lucas Oil 200 maneuvering from the rear of the field twice.
It was Elliotts first appearance at the Monster Mile. After suffering two penalties for speeding off pit road, it was obvious that the No. 94 Aaron's/Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet was fast.
They gave me an awesome truck, said Elliott in a post-race interview. And Im sure you could see it.
Indeed. It was quite a sight at Fridays final truck practice when he led the second session with a lap speed of 153.702 mph.
And, it was quite another sight seeing him qualify on the outside pole. The lone truck in front Elliott was the No. 54 driven by the youngest pole winner in series history, 19-year-old Darrell Bubba Wallace.
Wallace led the field to green from the outside of the front row using the bowl-shaped track with 24 banking in the turns and 9 banking on the straights to his advantage.
The first caution flew early going into lap two when the No. 17 driven by Timothy Peters dropped to make the turn, catching the right front of the No. 8 of Max Gresham, and also scooping up John Wes Townley and Jeff Agnew.
Speeding penalty sends Elliott to the back
Elliott remained in the second spot for the first 44 laps. After a second caution came out when the No. 57 of Norm Benning spun off of turn two, it offered a chance to pit. Elliotts crew worked fast enabling him to pass Wallace Jr. coming out of the pits.
But, Elliott was penalized for speeding in the last segment off of pit road, forcing him to go to the back of the field for the restart on lap 57.
By lap 58, Elliott had moved up to the fifteenth spot. During the third caution on lap 64, Elliott being near the back of the field, was called into the pits by Crew Chief Lance McGrew for scuff tires all around, a Sunoco fuel fill-up, and added wedge to the left rear.
Pitting 18 laps later than other drivers in front of him, Elliott found himself in the drivers seat of pit strategy if the leaders of the field were forced to pit under green.
Elliott was in the 14th spot by lap 72 and continued momentum as he gained three more positions in the next three laps, moving to right outside the top-10.
On lap 77 Elliott passed Townley to take his spot in the top 10. And by lap 88, he slid into the ninth spot with his sights set on Joey Coulter in the No. 18.
Elliott continued to advance in the field and after 110 laps he was back in the top five following leaders, Wallace Jr., Kyle Busch, Matt Crafton and Ryan Blaney.
Just as McGrew had hoped for in his earlier pit strategy with Elliott, green flag pit stops began on lap 119 for Busch, Wallace during lap 121, and Crafton on no. 122.
Elliott suffers second penalty
Elliott took the lead on lap 123 with Jeb Burton and German Quiroga in the second and third spots and had a clear view of nothing but cement and lapped trucks for the next 11 laps before pitting on lap 134 for fuel and tires under green.
But, he suffered a second penalty for speeding due to a rookie mistake of having his truck in the wrong gear while leaving his pits. When he shifted at the line, it bumped his speed over the allowable amount on pit road. That forced Elliott a pass through and put him a lap down.
Elliotts lucky break came on lap 159 when a caution came out for debris on the backstretch. With 42 laps remaining, the leaders moved to pit road and Elliott remained out, giving him a spot back on the lead lap.
Elliott quickly moved up to the thirteenth spot and with 33 laps left, and he again moved up to right outside the top-10 of the field behind Townley.
The fifth caution came out with more debris, this time on the front stretch, and Elliott pitted with 19 to go.
At this point, commentary from the press box indicated Elliott should consider the day a good learning experience. It seemed the comeback kid was being spoken of in past tense and had made a good run.
Elliott, however, wasnt finished just yet.
Fifteen drivers were on the lead lap when the green was dropped with 16 to go. Elliott quickly moved into the ninth position with 14 laps to go and sneaked into the eighth spot with less than 12 remaining. His crosshairs were again set on Wallace Jr. with nine to go, when the No. 5 driven by Tim George Jr., made contact with the wall in turn three, causing a tire to blow and bringing out the sixth and final caution.
Elliott gains four positions in one lap
Elliott moved up four positions within one lap and gave Ryan Blaney a good run for the third spot. In the end, Elliott crossed the finish line in the fourth spot his best finish in the NCWTS. Kyle Busch took his bow as the winner of the Lucas Oil 200 winner, and Crafton followed in second with Blaney finishing third.
In a post race interview, 17-year-old Elliott said he learned a hard lesson.
Dont speed on pit road, and I learned it the hard way, thats for sure, he said.
Elliott said he was fully accountable for the penalties suffered on pit road.
We would have been battling for the lead if we had been in the right position if I hadnt messed up, he stated.
Although it was the best finish for Elliott in the NCWTS, he will not be satisfied until he grabs a win.
I appreciate all of the fans support, Elliott said. Were capable of winning it. We just gotta make things go our way and me be mistake free.
I also want to thank Aarons, Hendrickcars.com and PepsiMax for all of their support, he added.
Were gonna move on to Iowa here in the next couple weeks, and hopefully well be able to grab a win there.
Elliott finished sixth at Martinsville and fifth at Rockingham in his only two starts earlier this season driving the Chevrolet fielded by Hendrick Motorsports. He has earned a top-ten finish in all three of his NCWTS starts.
He will be at Pocono Raceway this Friday for his first ARCA race of the season. Live coverage begins at 1 p.m. on SPEED. The Georgia Racing Hall of Fame will be hosting a viewing party. The event is free and open to the public.