Elliott to make 200th Cup start at Charlotte

Competing in his sixth full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series, Chase Elliott is within reach of a milestone start. By competing in this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the reigning series champion and driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE will achieve career start No. 200 in NASCAR’s premier series.

A native from Dawsonville, Georgia, Elliott made his inaugural presence in the Cup Series in 2015. By then, he was the reigning Xfinity Series champion driving for JR Motorsports and was named the successor of Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 24 Chevrolet for the 2016 Cup season, replacing four-time champion Jeff Gordon with Gordon set to retire from full-time racing following the 2015 season.

Elliott made his Cup debut at Martinsville Speedway in March 2015, driving the No. 25 Chevrolet SS for Hendrick Motorsports. During the event, however, he was involved in an early on-track incident that damaged his car and broke the power steering. Following repairs in the garage, Elliott returned and finished 38th in his series debut. He went on to compete in four additional Cup races, which included Richmond Raceway in April, Charlotte Motor Speedway in May, Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July at Darlington Raceway in September. His best results during his five-race Cup span were 16th at Richmond and a pair of 18th-place results at Charlotte and Indy. Elliott went on to finish in the runner-up position in the 2015 Xfinity Series standings while Gordon and the No. 24 team won at Martinsville in November and competed for the 2015 Cup title at Homestead-Miami Speedway before finishing in third place in the final standings.

Assuming the No. 24 Chevrolet in 2016, Elliott kicked off his rookie Cup season on a high note by winning the pole position for the Daytona 500, thus becoming the youngest pole winner of the 500 at age 20, two months and 17 days, while recording the 10th 500 pole award for Hendrick Motorsports. During the main event, however, Elliott was involved in an early incident and finished 37th. He rebounded with his first top-10 career result in the Cup Series after finishing eighth at Atlanta Motor Speedway. 

By September in his rookie season, Elliott claimed an additional pole at Talladega Superspeedway in April, two runner-up results in both Michigan International Speedway events, seven top-five results and 13 top-10 results, which were enough for him to make the 2016 Cup Playoffs. Finishing third, 13th and third in the Round of 16, Elliott advanced into the Round of 12. His title hopes, however, came to an end following the Round of 12 and following results of 33rd, 31st and 12th. Nonetheless, he capped off the season in 10th place in the final standings and with the Rookie-of-the-Year title. Overall, Elliott earned two poles, 10 top-five results, 17 top-10 results and an average result of 14.6 in his first full-time Cup season.

Elliott commenced his sophomore Cup season, 2017, with his second consecutive Daytona 500 pole award. He went on to win the non-point Can-Am Duel at Daytona four days later. During the 500, Elliott led a total of 39 laps and was leading a pack of cars in the final laps until his No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet SS started sputtering on low fuel under the final three laps. Instead of a possible trip to Victory Lane for his first 500 triumph, he ended up in 14th place.

By the time the 2017 regular-season stretch concluded in September, Elliott and the No. 24 team earned six top-five results and 14 top-10 results, which were enough for him to make the Playoffs. In the Round of 16, Elliott finished second, 11th and second as he advanced into the Round of 12. With results of second, 16th and fourth during the second round, he made his way into the Round of 8.

At Martinsville in October, Elliott made his way into the lead in the closing laps and was on his way to win his first Cup race and claim a spot to the Championship Round at Homestead due in three races when a bump from Denny Hamlin sent Elliott into the Turn 3 outside wall, where he wrecked and fell all the way back in 27th place when the checkered flag flew. The incident was one that led to both competitors confronting one another on pit road following the race and mixed reaction from the crowd. With his titles hopes in jeopardy, Elliott finished eighth during the following race at Texas Motor Speedway. During the next race at Phoenix, he took over the lead late and was on his way to redeem himself until he was overtaken in the closing laps by Matt Kenseth. With Kenseth winning, Elliott finished in second place for the fifth time in 2017 (seventh since 2016) and was not able to earn a spot in the Championship Round. The driver went on to settle in fifth place in the final standings and with 12 top-five results, 21 top-10 results and an average result of 12.0.

For the 2018 Cup season, Hendrick Motorsports switched Elliott’s number to 9, his father Bill’s iconic number, while newcomer William Byron was given the No. 24.

Through the first 21 races of the season, Elliott earned a runner-up result at Richmond in April, five top-five results, 10 top-10 results and was in 12th place in the regular-season standings. In the following race at Watkins Glen International in August, Elliott led a race-high 52 of 90 laps and held off a late challenge from Martin Truex Jr. to claim his first elusive Cup career victory in his 99th series start and return the Elliott name back in Victory Lane in NASCAR’s premier series. As an added bonus, Elliott recorded the 250th Cup career victory for Hendrick Motorsports. He went on to earn three consecutive top-10 results before the Playoffs commenced in September. By then, he surpassed 100 Cup career starts.

Despite crashing out in the Playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he rebounded by finishing fourth at Richmond and sixth in the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course event to transfer from the Round of 16 to the Round of 12. He kicked off the second round in the Playoffs on a high note by claiming his second Cup career victory at Dover. As a result, he secured his spot for the Round of 8 in the Playoffs. Two races later, he claimed his third career win at Kansas Speedway. Following results of seventh, sixth and 23rd in the Round of 8, though, Elliott was eliminated from title contention. He went on to conclude the season in sixth place in the final standings and with 11 top-five results and 21 top-10 results.

The 2019 Cup season started off on a low note for Elliott, who finished 17th after being involved in a late multi-car wreck. Through the first nine events of the season, he achieved a pole, a runner-up result at Martinsville in March and two top-10 results. During the following event at Talladega in April, Elliott led a race-high 45 laps and held off teammate Alex Bowman and the field on the final lap and in the midst of multiple wrecks behind to claim his first Cup victory of the season and the fifth of his career. He went on to win at Watkins Glen in August before the Playoffs commenced. 

In October, Elliott claimed his third victory of the season at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course as he transferred from the Round of 16 to the Round of 12. He rallied from a 38th-place result at Dover the following week to finish eighth and second during the next two races (Talladega and Kansas), which were enough for him to claim the eighth and final transfer spot to the Round of 8. Elliott’s title hopes, however, came to an end following three consecutive results outside of the top 30 during the Round of 8. When the final checkered flag of the season flew, Elliott concluded the season with a total of three victories, four poles, 11 top-five results, 15 top-10 results and a 10th-place result in the final standings.

Through the first seven races of the 2020 season, Elliott recorded three top-five results and was ranked in fourth place in the regular-season standings. He rebounded the following race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May by claiming his first victory of the season. He went on to win the All-Star Race at Bristol in July and the inaugural Cup event at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course layout in August.

Despite finishing 20th in the Playoff opener at Darlington Raceway following a late incident, Elliott finished in the top 10 in the following two races and claim his spot in the Round of 12. He earned a spot in the Round of 8 following another victory at the Charlotte Roval. After winning at Martinsville in November, Elliott and his No. 9 team earned a spot in the Championship Round at Phoenix. Despite starting at the rear of the field in the championship finale, Elliott led a race-high 153 of 312 laps and fend off Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin to win the race and capture his first NASCAR Cup Series title in his fifth season in Cup competition, thus becoming the 34th competitor to win a Cup title and recording the 13th title for Hendrick Motorsports. In addition to his first Cup championship, Elliott capped off the season with a career-high five victories, 15 top-five results, 22 top-10 results, over 1,200 laps led and an 11.7 average-finishing result.

Elliott is coming off his first victory of the 2021 season in the inaugural Circuit of the Americas event in Austin, Texas. Through the first 14 events of this season, he has also notched six top-five results and eight top-10 results. He is currently ranked in fifth place in the regular-season standings.

Through 199 previous Cup starts, Elliott has achieved one championship, 12 career victories, nine poles, 65 top-five results, 104 top-10 results and an average result of 13.3.

Elliott is slated to make his 200th Cup career start at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, May 30, with the event scheduled to occur at 3 p.m. ET on FOX.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.


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