Beset by troublesome tire issues, Chase Elliott managed a solid finish at Texas but saw his position in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs take a hit.
Elliott, the reigning series champion, appeared to have a car that could contend with Hendrick Motorsports teammate and eventual race winner, Kyle Larson, on Sunday but repeated problems with right-front tires plagued him during the race.
Elliott started in a hole, having to begin the race at the rear of the field after his No. 9 Chevrolet failed pre-race inspection multiple times.
However, he fought his way through the field to finish eighth in the first stage. His first tire issue arose in Stage 2 just before he was planning a green-flag stop. Elliott reported a vibration and after pitting on Lap 154 of 334, his team discovered his right-front tire was coming apart.
Twice more in the race, Elliott had the vibration issue return and he made additional stops under caution to ensure he wouldn’t lose a tire on the track. He still managed a seventh-place finish.
“I appreciate everybody continuing to fight through that and get our car a lot better. I thought by the end, we were decent. Just by that point, obviously, it was too late,” Elliott said. “I had another (tire) vibrate again after that, so I’m not really sure what we had going on there.
“There’s nothing really glaring as to what would cause that. So, I’m really confused. We’ll talk about it and maybe we’ll get to the bottom of why that happened. But regardless, just proud of the fight.
“Obviously, it could have been a lot worse.”
As it is, with two races remaining in the semifinal round of the places, Elliott is among the four drivers who would currently not advance to the Championship 4 at Phoenix to contend for the title.
He trails fourth-place Kyle Busch by eight points heading into next weekend’s race at Kansas Speedway, where he finished fifth in the spring and won in the 2018 season.
The Oct. 31 race at Martinsville, Va., also should provide Elliott an opportunity for a good finish or even a win as well. He’s finish seventh or higher – including a victory last season – in five of his last six races at the track.
“Hopefully, we can join (Larson) in Phoenix and I’m looking forward to these next two weeks. I think we can run good at the next couple and I feel like we’re all super close in points,” Elliott said.
“I feel like if we just go do our job these next two weeks and control what’s in our hands, we’ll be alright.”