A week after a late crash thwarted Chase Elliott from potentially securing a sixth straight top-2 finish, he narrowly escaped an early crash that took out contenders at the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
Starting in 13th position and driving in the UniFirst mint green and white paint scheme, Elliott went into the Michigan race looking to rebound after finishing 16th at the Indianapolis road course.
A total of nine cars were involved in the first major incident of the day, which occurred at the restart after the lap 20 competition caution.
While Kyle Busch, Austin Cindric and Aric Almirola were all taken out of the race due to a wayward J.J. Yeley, Elliott saved his own day with a diagonal maneuver.
He was running on the outside of a pack that was nearly four-wide when Yeley backed into Michael McDowell and started a chain reaction.
Elliott drove across the pack and stayed behind Cup Series newcomer Ty Gibbs to avoid McDowell.
Just when he looked clear, Elliott suddenly had to turn back toward the right side of the track after Harrison Burton got spun around.
Despite that save, Elliott struggled to break into a contending position for most of the race, finishing the opening two stages in 15th and 16th position, respectively.
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After relaying to his team that his car felt tight on multiple occasions, Elliott's crew made adjustments to help him make one last push toward the top ten within the last 40 laps of the race.
Finally breaking into ninth position with 30 laps remaining, Elliot floated around the tenth position before finishing the race in 11th.
The past two results at Indianapolis and Michigan marked the first time in two months that Elliott recorded consecutive finishes outside of the top 10.
He still holds a 119-point lead in the regular-season points standings and will have a chance to clinch the regular season title in the next couple of races.
Outside of Elliott, the result of the race caused a major change in the playoff standings.
Kevin Harvick won his 59th career Cup Series race and is now in the playoff picture, knocking out Martin Truex Jr for the moment. Prior to the race, Truex Jr and Ryan Blaney were the last remaining drivers in the playoff spots without a win.
Harvick’s win also marked the 15th different race-winner this season, a Cup Series record through this point of the season. With three races left in the regular season it is still possible to have 17 winners, which would knock one race-winner out of the 16-driver playoff format.
Elliott and the No. 9 team will return to Richmond Raceway for the Federated Auto Parts 400 next Sunday. At the spring race at Richmond earlier this season, Elliott finished 14th.