With four races left in the season, Dawsonville's Chase Elliott remains at the top of the NASCAR Nationwide Series leader board, despite a 10th-place finish at Kansas Speedway on Saturday.
"We really struggled and there's no excuse for that," he said in a post-race interview. "We just had a bad day today."
Elliott continues to lead the standings by 38 points over JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith, who also had troubles on Saturday. The champion will be crowned on Nov. 15 at Homestead Miami Speedway.
"Regardless of what the points situation looks like, this is not the performance we were looking for today. I'm bummed about it," Elliott said. "We may have gained, but I'm certainly bummed."
After starting in the 12th position, the 18-year-old rookie battled his No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevy for much of the race, radioing in that he was unable to comfortably drive through the corners.
On lap 74, he said he felt a vibration that had resulted from a previous pit stop.
A later caution put Elliott a lap down, but he was fortunate to receive the wave around and restarted sixth with 48 laps to go.
The struggles continued when Elliott ran into the back of Jamie Dick's No. 55 car, causing minor damage and sending him back into the pits for repairs.
Elliott was running in 11th position at the final restart and worked his way to a top-10 finish, his 10th of his rookie season.
Veteran driver Kyle Busch took home the victory to claim his second straight Nationwide win, sixth of the season and 69th of his career.
Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney, Paul Menard and Ty Dillon rounded out the top five.
Up next in the Nationwide Series is Charlotte Motor Speedway at 7:30 p.m. Friday, followed by Texas, where Elliott won his first race in the circuit in April, then Phoenix and Miami.
He also has wins at Darlington and Chicagoland.
"We will regroup before heading to Charlotte next week. With just four races to go in what's been an exciting season, we will continue to stay positive each step of the way," Elliott said. "I'm looking forward to racing under the lights at Charlotte. I know what this team is capable of, we just have to execute as a whole and get the job done."
If he takes home the championship in Miami, Elliott will be the first rookie to win the title and the youngest champion in NASCAR history. It would also be the first title for JR Motorsports.