Chase Elliott heads into Sunday‘s NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Round of 12 elimination race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC/NBC Sports App, PRN and SiriusXM) as a heavy favorite.
That‘s rightly so, considering the defending winner of the Bank of America ROVAL 400 has won the past three races on road courses — Watkins Glen International and the Roval in 2019, along with the series‘ inaugural running of the Daytona International Speedway Road Course back in August.
But with the forecast showing a 90% chance of precipitation as of Friday evening, the use of rain tires, as long as NASCAR officials deem the conditions safe to compete, will throw a huge curveball toward drivers and teams.
Elliott is among the majority of the field who lack experience slinging a 3,400-pound stock car around damp right- and left-hand turns. While much uncertainty lies ahead, one thing is for sure — it’s going to be a whale of a show.
“I think it‘ll be an entertaining event,” Elliott said Friday. “Cutoff race at the Roval in the rain. I‘m not sure what else NBC could ask for.”
Last year, Elliott took victory at the 2.28-mile, 17-turn oval and road-course combination, recovering from hitting the tire barrier after missing his entry into Turn 1 earlier in the race.
This time around, Elliott is hoping to avoid mistakes and make a smoother ride into Victory Lane once again, but the margin of error will shrink even more if the skies decide to open up during the race.
Regardless, Elliott acknowledged the track conditions are the same for everybody every week, so the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports team will just need to make the most of what comes their way.
“The way I see it, we all have the equal opportunity as far as what conditions or what a course might bring on a given weekend,” Elliott said. “Whether you have rain experience in the past can certainly help with that, but I don‘t think a lot of the Cup field does from that standpoint. It will be a big learning curve for all of us. This road course being relatively new, you haven‘t watched races be run in the rain, where as far as, you know, you see races being run in the rain all the time at let‘s say the Daytona Road Course with the Rolex (24) and things like that. You kind of know what it looks like, whereas here we don‘t and we don‘t have any history to look back on. I think it‘ll be a lot of learning on the fly.”
The four-time road-course winner currently sits fourth in the playoff standings, 44 points ahead of Joey Logano on the cutline. On Sunday, four drivers will be eliminated from the postseason. While that may seem like a comfortable margin, Elliott would disagree.
“No, I don‘t think there‘s ever a sense of comfort, even in the regular season because I think wins are too valuable there, too,” Elliott said. “My opinion is to push as hard as possible and try to put yourself in the best position to win each week as you can do and I think the points and things of that nature will be what they‘re going to be if you‘re giving it your best shot.”
“At the end of the day, we‘re all trying as hard as we can and whether I‘m 10 points behind or 10 points to the good, I don‘t feel like I‘m going to try any harder or have an extra gear to get if I‘m behind or ahead,” he added. “I feel like I‘m always trying my best to get the best possible finish.”