On Saturday, Aug. 28 at Daytona International Speedway, Dawsonville native Chase Elliott finished ninth in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 after leading for 33 laps.
With three laps to go, Elliott was leading the race, but No. 21 Matt DiBenedetto needed a win to get into the playoffs starting next week and was pushing Elliott to the inside of the track.
DiBenedetto tried to take the lead but was shut off by Elliott, causing sparks to fly and a huge wreck. This took both Elliott and DiBenedetto out of the pursuit of first. After the restart, Elliott, in 21st, was able to move up to 9th to end the race thanks to a final lap wreck.
Elliott started the race on the right foot, winning the first stage after starting fifth. The ten extra points helped the nine into fifth place for the playoff. Elliott was able to take the lead on lap 20 and would be in the top two for the rest of the stage.
Elliott first took the lead after staying patient and racing on the inside of the track. Elliott made a push starting on lap 13 where Elliott was in 13th place and maneuvered his way to the lead. He took the lead from Denny Hamlin who was leading most of the race, until Elliott got out in front.
With eight laps remaining in stage one, it was a battle between Joey Logano and Elliott for the lead. The nine car took the lead and pulled away from Logano with four laps to go and held onto it to win the first stage.
To begin stage two, Elliott started in front, but failed to keep that placement. Elliott fell back to eighth a few laps in. He was able to move up to third with only four laps remaining, but was overtaken by multiple other racers. Elliott would go on to finish 11th in the stage.
Elliott began stage three by moving up to the front. After staying around the eighth spot for most of the third stage, Elliott was able to move up to the front with just five laps to go. After helping Buescher get in the front of the race, Elliott took the outside and gained the lead for himself until the wreck.
To start the playoffs, Elliott finds himself in fifth place in playoff points with 21, just one point behind Kyle Busch for fourth place. Each round of the playoffs is three races, with four of the 16 playoff racers getting eliminated for Cup Series Championship contention at the end of every round. A win in any round race is an automatic bid into the next round.
The playoffs start next week in Darlington for the Cookout Southern 500. The 367-lap race is the first step in Elliott’s title defense and try to win the NASCAR Cup Series in two consecutive years for the first time since Jimmie Johnson in 2009-2010.