With NASCAR headed to Bristol this Saturday night for the annual Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race (6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN), there are only three weeks left before the 10-week playoffs begin.
Third-year star Chase Elliott officially punched his ticket two weeks ago with his first career victory at Watkins Glen International, outlasting Martin Truex Jr. in the final lap to take home the checkered flag. Elliott, the son of NASCAR legend Bill Elliott, has long been tabbed as one of the sport’s up-and-coming stars, but since joining the Monster Energy Cup Series in 2016, he always seemed to come up just a bit short of victory lane.
Elliott racked up eight runner-up finishes over his first three seasons in the Cup series before finally picking up his elusive first win with Hendrick Motorsports, sending the No. 9 car back to Victory Lane. We spoke with Chase last week, prior to him backing up that win with a ninth-place finish at Michigan, about the experience of winning, the emotions of having his dad there with him, what he’s learned in his young career, and what needs to happen to build off the win as the playoffs near.
What have the last few days been like for you since taking home that first win?
It’s been a lotta fun. Just enjoying it, man. It’s been a great couple days and just letting it soak in.
You had a bit of a rare opportunity on that last lap once [Martin] Truex Jr. ran out of gas to know the win would be yours a little early, what were the last moments of that lap like, being able to soak that in?
Yeah, well it’s not ever over till it’s over [laughs]. Just trying to get back around there and not make anymore mistakes was the big thing, but just enjoy it and letting it all soak in. It’s something I’ll never forget and just file that away.
I’m sure it’s something you’ve dreamt about for a long time, how did Victory Lane in the Cup series match up to your expectations?
Oh, it was incredible, man. Everything you could ever dream of it being for sure, so had a lot of time to think about it. The last few years I’ve been oh so close, and those days of going home and being close and being disappointed made this past weekend that much more special at the end of the day. It was very satisfying and a big relief to get it done.