“Who Cares If You Start at the Back?” – Chase Elliott Explains Mindset After Receiving Penalty Before the NASCAR Championship Race

Published 11/09/2020, 8:07 AM EST
Avondale, AZ, USA; Chase Elliot leads on the 125th lap during the Season Finale 500 at Phoenix Raceway in Phoenix, Ariz. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Breen-USA TODAY NETWORK


Sunday proved to be the pinnacle of drama in the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Championship. Having lost pole position, young Chase Elliott stormed through the traffic. He eventually won the race that clinched his first-ever Cup Series title.

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However, all was not rosy for the Hendrick Motorsports driver prior to the start of the race. Having failed a pre-race inspection twice, Elliott was forced to start from the back of the grid. He was more worried about something else heading into the race.

Speaking about his thoughts when he heard the news, Elliott stated, “My first thought was like, Oh, we’re going to lose our pit pick, too. That was the first thing in my head. I’m like, Oh, dang, we’re going to lose that first pit box.”

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Chase Elliott was relieved to retain the first pit box

One would imagine a driver would prioritize pole position more than anything in a crunch Championship race. However, it just goes to show the amount of self-confidence Elliott had in himself and instead placed importance on the pit pick.

“I really don’t think‑‑ starting position is great and all, whatever, I feel like from that standpoint, but that pit pick is huge. That starting position stays with you. It could potentially be done when you leave Turn 2, but that pit pick stays with you until the race is over. “

Oct 18, 2020; Kansas City, Kansas, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Chase Elliott (9) leads Kevin Harvick (4) during the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

“And once I realized we didn’t, I’m like, Okay, if we have our car good and our balance is right, who cares if you start at the back for the race?”

This is also exactly what happened, with his crew maintaining their pit box position. Elliott, though, had his task cut out driving through the traffic.

Elliott had tremendous confidence in his car despite starting last

By Lap 10 of the first stage, he had already made his way through to the Top 20. He passed Brad Keselowski to finish third at the end of the 75 laps at the Phoenix Raceway.

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“312 laps, you know. That’s no excuse to not get the job done if your car is good. Yeah, just took it for what it was and enjoyed that we still had that first pit box and got going.” concluded Elliott.

Nov 8, 2020; Avondale, AZ, USA; Chase Elliott celebrates winning the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series after winning the Season Finale 500 at Phoenix Raceway in Phoenix, Ariz. on Nov. 8, 2020. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Breen-USA TODAY NETWORK

Elliott drove a stellar race from thereon, executing precision passing moves time and again. Halfway through Stage 2, had even taken the lead from Team Penske’s Joey Logano.

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There was a sense of determination and desire from Chase Elliott’s end, searing through the track to win his first championship. When he reflects back on this win, he will remember how he bravely overtook his rivals to clinch that all-important cup.

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Bhargav Gopal

927 articles

Hailing from Bengaluru, Bhargav is an F1 and NASCAR author for EssentiallySports. He is a huge fan of Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing. Bhargav also has an MBA in Sports Management from the Symbiosis School of Sports Sciences, Pune.

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