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Elliott barrels into Bristol riding ton of momentum

Jeff Birchfield • May 29, 2020 at 11:00 PM

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Chase Elliott has momentum on his side heading into Sunday’s Food City presents the Supermarket Heroes 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

After a late pit stop cost Elliott a victory at last Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, he bounced back by winning the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race on Tuesday and the NASCAR Cup Series event on Thursday night.

His seventh career Cup win came as no surprise to the Hendrick Motorsports driver. Even though the decision to pit cost him the 600, he wasn’t too discouraged with the speed shown by his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

“The biggest thing is if we can continue to put ourselves in position, give ourselves chances and do a good job at controlling the things that are in our control,” Elliott said during Thursday’s post-race news conference. “We can’t control when a caution comes out two laps to go and you’re kind of in a lose-lose situation there. We’ve got to keep doing things that are in our hands and keep doing those well.”

The 24-year-old Elliott has put himself in good position as a driver. He worked hard to stay in shape during the shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

He’s also glad NASCAR returned to racing at Darlington and Charlotte before taking on the high-banked short track at Bristol.

“I tried to stay biking and doing things throughout those two months off,” Elliott said. “Honestly coming back and going back to Darlington where it was hot and then coming into the 600, it kind of just threw us back right to the wolves, and that was a good thing to get some hot races and some long races in right off the bat.

“I feel good, and I’m certainly tired. It’s been a long week, but I’m going to rest these next couple days and get ready for Bristol.”

Despite the Chevys being behind the Toyotas and Fords the past two seasons, Elliott still won three races in both 2018 and ’19. With the improved Camaro, he could be on pace to better those numbers this season as demonstrated by his wins at Darlington and Charlotte, along with strong runs at California and Phoenix before the shutdown.

While Bristol is a different track, he has a good record on the .533-mile oval, winning the pole for the 2019 Food City 500 and scoring four top-10 finishes in eight races. Still, he expects Bristol to be challenge because of the lack of practice time before the race as well as the possibility of the late afternoon heat.

“Five-hundred laps at Bristol is a really physical event,” he said. “We’ve raced a lot throughout this week. I’m tired, and I want to rest and get ready to go. It’s going to be a tough one on Sunday, especially in the afternoon.”

He likes his chances because his team is bringing strong cars to the track every week, which further boosts his confidence. Elliott, whose father Bill won the 1988 Bristol spring race, doesn’t want to see his team let up at all.

“I’m just excited that we’ve been performing well, and ultimately I want to just have a shot to win each and every week,” he said. “That’s our goal as a team. Whether we do or not is one thing, but to just have a chance to be in position is the goal, so we need to stay after that goal.”

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