Chase Elliott and the Aaron's No. 9 team ventured again into uncharted territory late last month, racing a USA Racing Pro Cup Series car at Langley Speedway.
When the checkered flag fell, Elliott and his team had a solid top-five finish as well as a wealth of knowledge to apply when they return to Langley on June 18 for a NASCAR K&N Pro Series race.
The recent visit to the Hampton, Va., 250 presented by Racing Electronics began with a Memorial Day weekend salute to soldiers. As a grandstand full of fans looked on, the drivers ran a four-wide parade lap with each driver holding an American flag out the window.
"That was pretty cool, especially with all of the focus on our military in the past months, to recognize them that way," Elliott said.
Elliott started on the outside pole after qualifying just three thousandths of a second off Brad Rogers pole speed of 85.864 miles per hour.
A short rain shower just before the start of the race changed the track, and the Aaron's crewmembers knew they would have to make adjustments to compensate.
Almost immediately following the green flag, Elliott radioed to his crew chief Ricky Turner that the car was tight, which they expected. He also had news the crew didn't expect - the car was running hot.
Elliott fell back to third behind Rogers. J.P. Morgan and Jeff Agnew were on his bumper. By lap 20 Elliott was running fourth, trying to take care of the car until a caution would allow him to pit.
A lap later, the caution flag flew, and Elliott brought the No. 9 Aaron's Dream Machine to pit road where his crew removed tape from the grill to cool the motor and made a suspension adjustment.
Elliott restarted ninth and soon was racing three wide, passing two cars in turn four and continuing to fight three wide for positions from Tyler Young and Ryan Heavner.
On the next caution period, at lap 36, Elliott reported that the water temperature had come down, but the car was still tight in the corners. He restarted seventh on lap 43. Another caution on lap 51 allowed Elliott to pit for fuel and more adjustments.
Quick work by the Aaron's pit crew got Elliott back out on the track in the fifth position, but Turner radioed that they still had some work to do on adjustments.
Just after a lap 66 restart, Elliott worked his way into the third spot behind Morgan and Rogers. Elliott was dispatching lapped drivers and turning lap times as fast as the leaders, but he lost two spots when he was forced to make an evasive move around a car that spun in front of him.
Still, he was back to third when the caution flag flew at lap 102. Elliott pitted for more track bar adjustments and restarted ninth on lap 112.
Elliott continued to advance, taking advantage of several restarts, including one on lap 233 when he made a bold move on Rogers for third place but came up a bit short.
The final caution on lap 244 set up a green-white-checkered finish that saw Morgan take the checkered flag followed by Rogers, Agnew and Elliott.
Turner said the team gained valuable experience to put to use when they return with the K&N Series.
"It was good to come up here and see the track and get a feel for it," he said. "We've got some work to do, but I think this will be a pretty big help."