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Return to top-5 at Richmond brings Elliott closer to regular-season title
Chase Elliott drives the No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet Camaro in a 2018 race at Richmond Raceway. Elliott finished fifth at this year’s Federated Auto Parts 400. (Photo courtesy of John C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Coming off two finishes outside the top-10, Chase Elliott had his work cut out for him with a starting position of 23rd at the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway on Sunday, Aug. 14.

In a race that eventually resulted in a second consecutive victory for Kevin Harvick, Elliott maneuvered up the track and secured a fifth position finish. 

While Elliott has been squarely focused on improving his finishes in recent weeks, one of the storylines coming into the second race at Richmond this season was his chance to mathematically secure the regular season points championship.

Elliott needed to clear Ryan Blaney by at least 120 points by the end of the Richmond race to clinch that title.

With Blaney fighting hard for a playoff spot, his 14 combined stage points and 10th position race finish would gather 38 points — three more than Elliott did with a fifth position finish and eight stage points.

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As a result, he ended the day still needing just a few points in the next race to officially finish at the top of the points standings.

“We definitely got better in comparison to our competitors toward the end,” Elliot said. “Proud of our NAPA team for fighting through everything today and making the most of a tough Saturday.”

Elliott responded to a disappointing qualifying run on Saturday by quietly moving up the board Sunday, eventually reaching 11th position by the end of Stage One. 

He would comfortably run in the back of the top-10 for most of Stage Two, making two pit stops that were handled efficiently by both Elliott and the crew. 

By avoiding any issues on pit road and getting back onto the track without any incidents, Elliott kept himself in contention. 

He would finish Stage Two in eighth position and would gradually move into the top-5 in the final stage of the race. 

Elliott would find his best track position of the day with 35 laps remaining, holding on to third position for around 17 laps before being passed Christopher Bell and Denny Hamlin to fall back to his eventual finishing position of fifth. 

His finish secured a Cup Series-leading 16th top-10 finish and second-best ninth top-5 finish.