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Cody Kluge Cody Kluge BVM Sports Journalist/Editor
Chase Elliott has ‘opportunity’ despite up-and-down 2023

Chase Elliott has ‘opportunity’ despite up-and-down 2023

RICHMOND, Va. (BVM) – Hendrick Motorsports is closing in on an impressive milestone as the team sits just three wins away from reaching 300 victories all time. For Chase Elliott, getting that 300th win would be exciting, but just being part of such a successful team has been an honor.

“I think for me personally, I just want to help get there,” Elliott said during an interview on BVM Sports’ Cup Connection. “Would I love to be the one to get across the finish line? Sure, absolutely. But I just wanna feel like I’m doing my part … Just to know that I’ve played a small role in that huge number, I’m proud of, and I’ll be proud of it regardless.”

Achieving an impressive milestone for his team would be rewarding, but Elliott currently has his mind focused on earning his first NASCAR Cup Series victory since last October. Sitting at 21st in the Cup Series standings, the driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet knows he likely needs to take home his first checkered flag of 2023 in order to salvage what has been an up-and-down year and make the postseason. 

“Really since I got back, I felt like we were in a position that we needed to win,” Elliott said. “I have felt since we came back that winning is of the highest priority, and I still feel that way today. But it always is, so how much really changes?”

Elliott’s aforementioned return to the track came in April after he missed multiple races when he suffered a broken leg during a snowboarding accident in early March that required surgery. It was a tough blow early in the year, but perhaps one positive of the absence was being able to watch the performance of Josh Berry in the No. 9 car that helped him solidify his full-time Cup Series ride next year with Stewart-Haas Racing. 

“I like Josh a lot, I think a lot of him,” Elliott said. “I think he’s a very talented race car driver. He’s just a guy that’s hung in there. He’s hung in there and continued to work hard … There was always a lot of respect on my end to Josh and what he was doing from afar.

“I thought he came in, in a tough situation, and did our team a solid job. I hope that helped him get all the things that he was hoping to achieve and his new opportunity. I’m looking forward to racing with him next year.”

Not too long after his return from injury, Elliott missed yet another race in early June after being suspended by NASCAR for wrecking Denny Hamlin at the Coca-Cola 600, one of multiple recent spats Hamlin has had with some of the drivers of Hendrick Motorsports.

Despite the continued adversity, Elliott has finished 13th or better in all but one race since his mid-April return, and has collected eight top 10s in the process. There have been plenty of ups and downs, but the driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet has been treating the season as a valuable experience.

“Definitely been different, for sure,” Elliott said. “Kind of have been going through things that I’ve never really experienced before, which is bad in some ways, probably good in other ways. We’ve just been, since I’ve got back from injury, just trying to improve, trying to get better.

“It’s definitely been a bummer to miss races and be in the position that we’re in in some aspects, but in other aspects, I think it gives you the opportunity to kind of find new ground and learn more about yourself and your team as you go.”

While Elliott has been able to spin his unique season into a positive, what would make his comeback even sweeter is making a late run into the postseason. Just five races remain before the NASCAR playoffs begin in September. Two of those final races will come at road courses in Indianapolis and Watkins Glen, and although those have traditionally been places of success for NASCAR’s most popular driver, he believes he is capable of finding a win anywhere over the next month.

“Honestly, I think we can go and have good runs at any of the tracks,” Elliott said. “Going to Richmond this weekend, we’ve never won at Richmond, but we’ve had a couple of solid top-five runs … If you can’t be solid at all the tracks that you’re going to, you’re probably not gonna make it very far in the playoffs. Really every week needs to be an opportunity, and if it’s not, you might not belong there anyway. 

“I don’t look at them [road courses] any different than I look at Richmond this weekend, personally. We had a good run there for a little while and everyone promoted me to being such a great road racer … I look at those the same as I look at Richmond and the same as I look at the other races.”

While Elliott was sidelined earlier this year, it created yet another moment to learn from his NASCAR-famous father, Bill Elliott. Bill broke his leg in 1996, and missed time on the track because he “tripped over a watering hose,” allowing Chase to relate during his absence earlier this season.

“He’s broken a lot more bones than me, I don’t wanna catch up to him in that department,” Chase joked.

Growing up, Bill helped Chase learn the ins and outs of racing, and some of the more technical aspects of the sport. Since, Bill’s mentorship has transitioned more to the little things, and helping his son be ready to compete each week.

“He and my mom both have had a huge impact in my career,” Chase said. “Dad has been able to help me on the track, but also off the track too. And as time has gone on, probably more off the track than on the track, really, just because things have changed a lot.

“That’s where, from his standpoint, has been more just being dad and helping me navigate the things off the race track to make sure my mind is where it needs to be at the race track to go and try to extract the ability I feel like I have, and that he feels like I have too.”

The winner of 18 Cup Series races, the 2020 Cup Series champion – and the sport’s most popular driver just as his Hall-of-Fame father was dubbed for many years when he drove the No. 9 car – is happy with where his career is at, and for the chance to share so many special moments on and off the track with his dad.

“We’ve had fun with it over the years and we’ve enjoyed going to the race track,” Chase said. “We’ve had some amazing opportunities to go and spend time together that I’m very grateful for. If everything ended today, I could look back and I think we could both be really proud of the time that we spent together, his career, and how much we worked together on my career too.”

However, that doesn’t mean the 27-year-old is slowing down any time soon. While he is NASCAR’s most-popular driver, Chase is also one of the sport’s top talents. An adversity-filled 2023 season hasn’t always allowed him to prove his elite potential, but if Elliott can find a way to victory lane and get in the playoffs, anything can happen given his exceptional ability behind the wheel.

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