The driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro is about to defend his NASCAR Cup Series title. Chase Elliott will join teammate Kyle Larson in the championship four after securing enough points at Martinsville Speedway.
Elliott entered the October 31 elimination race 34 points above the cutline and was poised to reach the Phoenix race for the second consecutive season. All he had to do was finish in the top 15, provided he didn’t lock up any stage points. However, Elliott won the first two stages and clinched his spot in a decisive manner.
The two Hendrick Motorsports teammates will now face off for the championship trophy at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, November 7, along with two other drivers. The race will take place at 3 p.m. ET and will air on NBC.
Elliott Made Moves Early in Stage 1
The driver of the No. 9 started next to Larson on the front row, and he spent the first portion of the race chasing down his teammate. However, Elliott took over the lead on Lap 56 and held on until the competition caution at Lap 60.
Larson retook the lead after the competition caution and a Ryan Newman spin, but he did not hold on for very long. Elliott captured the lead once again on Lap 85. He led the field for the rest of the first stage and took the green and white checkered flag, locking up 10 points in the process.
The second stage started with Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. side-by-side after Larson received a speeding penalty. The two drivers battled for several laps with the No. 19 holding the advantage until Lap 205. Elliott then used an inside move to jump to the lead once again and set himself up for enough points. He continued to lead with a dominant stock car until Lap 260 when he won his second stage and clinched his spot in the championship four.
Elliott Hit His Stride at the Best Possible Moment
The defending champion struggled during some of the early races in the playoff schedule. He crashed in the opening Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway and ended the September 5 race 31st overall. He bounced back with a fourth-place run at Richmond but then capped off the Round of 16 with a 25th-place finish after a collision with Kevin Harvick cut his tire.
Elliott kicked off the Round of 12 with a strong run, finishing second at Las Vegas Motor Speedway behind Denny Hamlin. However, he finished 18th at Talladega and 12th at the Charlotte Roval. Though Elliott still secured his spot in the Round of Eight on points even after Harvick sent him into the wall.
While the Rounds of 16 and 12 featured multiple races with issues, the Round of Eight told a different story. Elliott hit his stride and ran in the top-10 every single race. He finished seventh at Texas Motor Speedway to keep himself within reach of the championship four, and then he finished second at Kansas Speedway to build up a massive points cushion. The dominant run at Martinsville only capped off a strong round.
Elliott is now back in championship form after securing his spot in the season finale. He will now head to Phoenix, a track where he has one win, four top-five finishes, and seven top-10s.