Dawsonville native Chase Elliott was relegated to a 31st-place finish in the first race of the Round of 16 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs at Darlington Raceway after a late race on-track incident.
Elliott started fourth and was up to third by lap 11 before the first caution of the race was displayed. After staying out on track during the caution, Elliott restarted second but slipped back to seventh by the time the competition caution waved on lap 26.
The driver of the No. 9 reported that he was battling loose-handling conditions before visiting pit road. As Elliott exited his pit box, he clipped another driver’s tire on pit road and damaged the left-front fender of the NAPA Chevy. He had to make a second pit stop for repairs and restarted 33rd on lap 30.
Elliott was back inside the top 20 on lap 47 when yet another caution flag waved. The NAPA team continued their march forward as Elliott broke into the top 10 on lap 88. Elliott reported that he wore his rear tires out and slipped one spot to finish stage one in 11th.
Unfortunately for the No. 9 team, Elliott was trapped one lap down after an untimely caution flag. Following the restart, the Dawsonville, Georgia, native continued to maneuver inside the top 10 and took the green-checkered flag in eighth when stage two ended on lap 230.
Elliott lined up sixth to begin the final stage and broke into the top five on lap 251. Elliott reported that the handling of his Camaro was tightening up and scored eighth when another caution flag waved on lap 319.
A miscommunication resulted in Elliott missing pit road and eventually coming in a lap later than the other leaders. Not long after the restart, Elliott was squeezed into the turn four wall while racing three-wide. The contact cut his left front tire and sent him hard into the turn one wall. The resulting damage was enough to end the No. 9 team’s night early with a 31st-place finish.
Elliott’s next race, at Richmond Raceway, will be Saturday, Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m.