After easily and dramatically winning at Martinsville Speedway five months ago, Chase Elliott called his second-place finish Sunday night “hard-fought.”
Elliott didn’t lead a lap this time around and was too far behind Martin Truex Jr. to challenge for the win. The reigning series champion restarted fourth on lap 458 and came on late to grab the runner-up spot from Denny Hamlin.
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“We were not great but, I guess, our strong suit was kind of early on in the run, then really faded hard, too hard there latter part of a run,” said Elliott. “But we never got one of those super long runs, which is probably a good thing for us because we were struggling on that end. But proud we could fight back.
“We had a long day with strategy not going our way, restart lane choice at times was tough. I’m glad we were able to get back in the fight there and give ourselves a chance.”
A lack of rear grip with his Chevrolet was the biggest hindrance to Elliott’s day, and it was the same issue at the end of the race. Once Truex took the lead, Elliott went to battle with Hamlin for the second spot but could not easily or quickly pull off the pass, which helped Truex build a gap.
“I just didn’t have the drive I needed to get up off the corner like I wanted and to be able to really get the power down early,” Elliott said.
.@chaseelliott taking over P4️⃣ on the outside?
Impressive. Most impressive. pic.twitter.com/nlJBHDnJZl
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) April 11, 2021
Elliott averaged a 6.3 running position throughout the afternoon, and he finished fourth in both stages. The 49 points that Elliott scored at Martinsville are the most he’s earned in a race so far this season.
After capturing his third top-five finish of the season, Elliott admitted in his television interview that it’d been an “eventful year,” and he was thankful to have had a solid day. While two of his teammates have already been to victory lane, Elliott and the No. 9 group have been more hot or cold. The 73 laps that Elliott has led this year all came in the first four races, and he’s not paced the field since Las Vegas last month.
“Every week, I feel like it’s been one thing or another, a bad run or just whatever,” Elliott said. “Just nice to have just a smooth day, no damage. We didn’t break anything. Everything was just smooth. It was uneventful. That’s the days you have to have to compete for wins, ultimately. Some of that is in your hands, some of it’s not.
“Truly nice to have an uneventful day, so to speak, just get a solid finish. Got some solid stage points. It was definitely a step in the right direction for us.”