Dawsonville's Chase Elliott raced to his 15th top-10 finish of the season in Saturday's U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway, despite a questionable pit call late in the race and a wreck a few laps later.
"Well, tonight was a bit of an up-and-down performance for us," he said. "We had our struggles this weekend, but I thought our NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet came to life late, once the sun went down and we had some solid chances."
Finishing in the ninth position, four spots ahead of points leader Chris Buescher, Elliott now trails Buescher by just 20 points in the chase for his second consecutive NASCAR Xfinity Series championship.
"Although we gained on Chris, we have to get better in order to reach our ultimate goal of a championship," he said.
Starting 12th, Elliott easily made his way to run near the front for the first leg of the 250 lap race and was able to gain position after the a pit stop on the first caution.
He started in eighth position on the lap-82 restart. With less than 100 laps to go, he picked up four more positions coming out of the pits and was running fourth before being caught up in a streak of bad luck late in the race.
Crew chief Ernie Cope made a questionable call for two tires, while other drivers took four, causing the NAPA machine to lose both grip and position as the race wound down.
Then with 20 laps to go, it looked like Elliott's chance to gain on Buescher were over for the night when he was involved in a wreck with the No. 33 car driver by Brandon Jones, but the NAPA crew managed to keep him on the lead lap while repairing the bumper of his Camaro.
"My pit crew was absolutely unbelievable and that's what we have to have week in and week out. They were awesome tonight," Elliott said. "Unfortunately, we couldn't hold the lead late in the race and ended up getting caught up in a wreck late in the race."
With 14 laps to go, Elliott restarted 17th and proved his fight was not over yet. He finished ninth during the second green-white-checkered, while Ryan Blaney, who led three times for a race-high 252 laps, captured his third career Xfinity Series victory.
Regan Smith, Brian Scott, Ty Dillon and Brendan Gaughan rounded out the top-five finishers.
"We fought back and made what could've been a poor finish into a top-10 by fixing the damage the best we could and staying on the lead lap," Elliott said. "Looking forward to Watkins Glen and starting the first of three road courses in the next few weeks."