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Elliott gambles for the win, comes away with solid top-five

Chase Elliott faces a likely must-win situation in order to make the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, and in order to do that, the No. 9 team will have to take big gambles wherever they can.

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro

Photo by: Ben Earp / NKP / Motorsport Images

Elliott missed six races due to a fractured tibia in his left leg, and then a seventh after he was suspended for intentionally wrecking Denny Hamlin during the Coca-Cola 600.

His easiest path to the playoffs would be to win a race, and on Sunday, the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports team rolled the dice trying to do just that.

While most of the field came down pit road for fresh tires after a late-race caution, Elliott was one of three drivers who chose to stay out. He was now in control for what would be the final restart of the race.

Elliott managed to hold the lead for a few laps, but was no match for a charging Martin Truex Jr. in the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. 

Tyler Reddick and Ryan Blaney were the only other drivers who stayed out. Unfortunately, it did not end well for them. Both were wrecked in the closing laps while Elliott managed to remain unscathed. 

He brought home a fifth-place finish for his third top-five result of the 2023 season.

“It’s nice to get a top-five, no doubt, so proud of that," he said post-race. "We were trying to do something a little different with strategy. We had pit about six or eight laps there before that caution. We just felt like our only play was to stay out. I was really hoping that more people would do that with us so we’d have three or four rows. It still probably wouldn’t have been enough, but I do think it would have been nicer to have a couple more rows and a buffer for those with tires."

It wasn't the win he needed, but it may be a sign of things to come as the No. 9 team focuses on reaching Victory Lane this summer. They have ten races to get the job done.

"It was certainly a good fight for the No. 9 NAPA Chevy team," added Elliott. "It was one of our better runs there in the last couple of races, so always good to finish strong. It wasn’t an ideal situation, so to kind of fight through it there and come home with a top-five is good. Looking forward to build on that and hopefully contend for a win before long.”

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