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Elliott inches up playoff board after improved Kansas performance
Chase Elliott and crew chief Alan Gustafson speak before last season’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

After an early exit at Darlington to begin the 2022 NASCAR playoffs, Chase Elliott knew he needed to bear down and score significant points in the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway last Sunday. 

While his final few laps may have placed him outside the top 10 for the finish, his efforts in the opening two stages earned him two spots up the playoff standings to seventh place heading into the final Round of 16 race next Saturday night at Bristol.

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After qualifying for the race in 22nd position, Elliott worked his way into sixth position following Stage One and looked to have a car capable of competing for a top-5 finish.

Finishing Stage Two in fifth, a three-wide restart did not work in Elliott’s favor and he found himself dropped back to 13th position. 

Though the eventual 11th position finish would be disappointing for Elliott, he still took positives from the race and gained 37 points to put some distance between him and the bottom of the playoff standings. 

“Probably just bad lane choice and bad restart,” Elliott said of the latter part of his race. “I was actually pretty pleased with our balance. Our car really wasn’t driving very different than what it was earlier in the race when we were up front. Just had a bad restart and fell back a bunch.”

Elliott’s overall performance marked an improvement from both the previous week’s misfortune and the first Kansas race this season, where an otherwise strong day was cut short by a late spin out with 70 laps left.

He now sits in a crowded middle section of the playoff standings — just eight points behind fifth-place Ryan Blaney but just two points ahead of ninth-place Ross Chastain. 

The race finished with all four Hendrick Motorsports drivers finishing in the top 11, with Alex Bowman in fourth, William Byron in sixth and Kyle Larson in eighth. 

Bubba Wallace, in the No. 45 car in place of Kurt Busch, held off car owner Denny Hamlin for his second career Cup Series win. Elliott would be one of the drivers to congratulate him after the race. 

The No. 9 team will be headed to Bristol Motor Speedway next Saturday for the Bass Pro Shops Night Race to improve its position in the playoff standings. The race will begin at 7:30 p.m. on the USA Network.