Over the past six weeks, NASCAR has held eleven cup series races. While it’s definitely had some ups and downs with the return, there has been one glaring constant:
Chase Elliott’s speed.
During the first eleven races back, the #9 car has had eight top five finishes. At Bristol, he crashed with Joey Logano in a battle for first during overtime. At the race in Talladega, he was wrecked and knocked out when running P3 with 55 laps left, and just like that a legitimate shot to win back-to-back races at the fastest speedway on Earth was gone.
While you can argue superspeedway racing does have a lot of luck involved, he’s been the most consistent driver with a chance to win every race. A wreck with Kyle Busch and two with Joey Logano have cost the Hendrick Motorsports driver three chances to win. A caution with two laps to go also destroyed an easy win for Chase during the Coca-Cola 600. I guess the first Pocono race was an exception, but he did get unlucky on the restarts and dealt with pit road issues.
While there are many reasons he doesn’t have the amount of wins he probably should so far, part of being a great driver is their ability to persevere and succeed even when there are difficulties. Besides Atlanta when Chase won the pole and the races he’s crashed or had penalties/transmission issues (after the Covid-19 break), he has never finished outside the top ten. Working his way through the field and putting himself in a position to win seems to be his speciality.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) May 29, 2020
Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick are the current favorites as they have seven wins between them, but they both have been very hit-or-miss competitors. It seems they either finish outside the top 20 or finish first or second (admittedly it’s usually the latter). Meanwhile, Chase is yet to finish outside the top 10 when he hasn’t wrecked or had internal problems, not including the races before the hiatus.
Obviously, he isn’t the perfect driver. Chase has had problems on his restarts; there have been multiple times he’s found himself losing spots after going green. Although it’s not an issue, the three other drivers on his team are in very different spots than he is. Jimmie Johnson is retiring after this year, and Alex Bowman and William Byron are great drivers, but are still learning and Byron is looking for his first Cup Series win.
So far, Chase is projected to finish 5th in the standings, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he emerges as the favorite to win the 2020 championship.
Photo credit: Rich Barnes/USA Today