The NASCAR Cup Series regular-season champion is going to need all of his bonus points to avoid elimination. Chase Elliott started the 2022 playoffs by hitting the wall and heading to the garage after falling victim to the DVP clock.
The incident occurred with three laps remaining in the opening stage of the Southern 500. Elliott lost control of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro and bounced off the outside wall. He slid around the turn before hitting the outside wall once again and collecting the No. 14 Ford Mustang of Chase Briscoe.
Both drivers headed to their pit stalls for repairs, but there was doubt that Elliott’s team could get the job done in the allotted 10 minutes. He had clearly broken the toe link, but he had also broken the lower control arm.
The No. 9 team of Hendrick Motorsports attempted to make repairs, but they were unable to complete them before the clock hit 10 minutes. This meant that Elliott would start the playoffs with a DNF. He would also leave Darlington Raceway scored in last place, provided there were not any disqualifications.
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Elliott Used Many of His Bonus Points
The driver of the No. 9 entered the postseason with 40 bonus points after winning four races, five states, and the regular-season championship. He was 33 points above the cutline, and he appeared to be a shoo-in for the Round of 12.
The situation changed with the DNF at Darlington Raceway. Elliott’s night came to an end, and he used up more than half of his bonus points. According to the NBC live feed, he headed to the garage only 19 points above the cutline.
This total should change based on the remaining two stages of the playoff race. Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Ross Chastain, and other championship hopefuls can secure points by finishing each stage inside the top 10, which will help them gain ground on Elliott.
“I don’t think there is ever a period of time where you should think anything is taken for granted, and I don’t think any amount of playoff points is ever safe,” Elliott told media members ahead of the playoff weekend. “The rounds are so short. You could have two bad weeks back-to-back, and you do nothing wrong. And next thing you know, you’re in a position where you have to win the last one.”
Elliott’s Next 2 Races Will Play a Major Role
The DNF at Darlington Raceway was exactly what Elliott and crew chief Alan Gustafson hoped to avoid. It certainly removed their cushion above the cutline and created further problems in the final two races of the Round of 16.
Elliott will next head to Kansas Speedway, a track where he has had previous success. He has made 13 starts at the intermediate track, and he has secured eight top-10 finishes with six top-fives. Elliott also won the playoff race at Kansas Speedway during the 2018 season.
The Round of 16 will come to a close with a trip to Bristol Motor Speedway. The 2021 playoff race was not a great night for Elliott considering that he cut a tire while battling with Kevin Harvick in the final stage. He ultimately finished the night 25th overall. Though he still moved on to the next round of the playoffs.
Elliott’s last race at Bristol Motor Speedway did not feature a strong finish, but he has contended for top-fives and top-10s at the short track throughout his career. This includes a third-place finish in 2018 and a fifth-place finish in 2019.