For the fourth time in a row, Chase Elliott earned a top-three finish in a NASCAR Cup Series race, finishing in second place at the Toyota Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on Sunday, June 6.
“We were solid today. Just not good enough at the right times,” Elliott said at his post-race press conference. “But, yeah, no, I feel good about our group. We have a solid group. We just have to put it all together and execute when it counts most.
Elliott finished behind teammate Kyle Larson, who won his second race in a row. This was the Hendrick Motorsports team’s fourth straight first and second place finish in a Cup Series race, a feat accomplished only once in racing history by Karl Kiekhafer Racing in 1956.
“Kyle and I have always raced each other with a lot of respect ever since we started racing against each other,” Elliott said.
Staying in second place through the start of the race until a pit stop on lap nine, Elliott lost five spots returning to the race in seventh. Luckily, a caution flag came out on lap 10 and Elliott stayed on the track, returning to second place and holding that spot until the end of Stage 1.
Between stages, Elliott returned to pit road and started Stage 2 in 16th place. After six laps, Elliott was back in the top-10 and found himself in fifth place when a caution flag appeared on lap 31.
During this break, Elliott told his crew chief Alan Gufstafson that the adjustments on pit road allowed him to be more aggressive on the race track. The team made more adjustments on the caution and Elliott was in 18th place when racing resumed.
Like before, Elliott drove through the pack of cars and was back in the top-10 with three laps to go in the stage and finished in fifth place.
Elliott did not pit between Stage 2 and the final stage and his restart propelled him to the front of the pack of cars for the lead. Larson, who pitted between stages for new tires, took over the lead on lap 57 and Elliott brought the number nine car into pit road on lap 61 of the 90-lap race.
Caution flags began to slow the race down, benefiting Elliott’s race tremendously. He continued to surge to the top of the pack in the final laps and was in second place with 10 laps to go. He held second for the last laps, including overtime.
“Congratulations to (Larson) and (Cliff Daniels) and everybody on the number five team,” Elliott said. “They’ve been doing an amazing job. I’m really proud of our NAPA group though. I feel like we were a lot better there at the end than we were at the beginning; and definitely the best I’ve ever been here, I feel like, at Sonoma, in particular.”
The strong finish kept Elliott in third place in the NASCAR Cup Series standings and fourth place in overall playoff points, behind Larson, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr.
The NASCAR Cup Series takes a break next week while the NASCAR drivers participate in the All-Star Race. Elliott won last year’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
This year’s All-Star Race will be at Texas Motorspeedway on Sunday, June 13, starting at 8 p.m.