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Chase Elliott will need a big day at Martinsville after a Homestead headache
Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin race during the NASCAR Cup Series Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (Photo by Jared East/Getty Images)

For over 200 laps at the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Chase Elliott was comfortably within the top 10 and had his sights on a top-5 finish.

But a caution during a lap 212 green-flag pit stop cycle pushed back Elliott’s track position outside the top 10 and placed him closer to the edge of the playoff bubble. He would finish 14th.

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Coming into the race at Homestead, Elliott was third in the NASCAR playoff standings and 11 points ahead of fourth-placed Denny Hamlin. 

While Elliott and Hamlin each earned 31 points at Homestead, Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron put himself into the top four of the playoff standings after a pair of top-3 stage finishes gave him 42 points on the day.

Now, Elliott is just six points ahead of Byron heading into the penultimate race of the 2022 NASCAR season at Martinsville — also the final race of the Round of 8.

“We were playing defense all day but we were doing a pretty good job staying near the top 5,” Elliott said after the race. “When you have something like [the late caution] happen to you and you get stuck…that’s what happens when you’re playing defense.”

Starting the race in third position, Elliott was racing toward the back half of the top 10 until the first caution of the race came out at lap 31.

A quick pit stop and strong restart allowed Elliott to move up to fourth before sliding back again to finish Stage One in eighth position.

Stage Two proved to be consistent for Elliott, who had little variation of position and finished the stage in sixth position. 

With 85 laps remaining in the race, Elliott made another charge into the top-four that looked more sustainable than at previous points of the day. 

But the disruptive caution during the pit stop cycle interrupted all of Elliott’s momentum. After exiting the caution in 13th position, he would move up as far as 10th before the final caution of the race would move him back toward his eventual finishing position of 14th.

Next week, the No. 9 team seeks to solidify a place in the Championship Four at the Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway. 

Elliott has collected 93 points in the Round of 8 — his 46 playoff points plus the 47 combined points earned at Las Vegas and Homestead. 

He sits just 13 points behind current playoff leader Joey Logano but just 11 points above fifth-placed Denny Hamlin. 

The Martinsville race will be Sunday, Oct. 30, at 2 p.m. and will be broadcast on NBC.