Looking Back: Chase Elliott

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The 2021 season opened with a lot of confidence in Chase Elliott among the PointsBet Sportsbook traders, but an inability to win on ovals and a loss of dominance on road courses in the second half of the season forced him to play catchup in the playoffs.

One cannot help but wonder what might have happened if the caution light had been illuminated seconds later in the season-opening Daytona 500.

Brad Keselowski turned his teammate Joey Logano in the final turn of the white flag lap as they battled for the lead. Elliott was pushing Michael McDowell and as the melee unfolded around them, he was in the process of making a pass when the yellow waved. He lost by less than a car length.

More importantly, Elliott failed to lock into the playoffs while the first of many dark horses took one of the 16 spots. McDowell was declared the winner.

Elliott should have rebounded the following week on the Daytona International Speedway Road Course. He had a clearly dominant car before dropping to mid pack with a late-race pit stop. Coming through the field, he tried to squeeze into a hole that didn't exit and spun off the nose of Keselowski's Ford.

Misfortune, mistakes, and missed opportunities defined the first 10 weeks of the season, but he continued to be the favorite to win the championship until Week 12.

Beginning in early May, it seemed Elliott found his groove in Kansas. He finished fifth there, was seventh at Darlington Raceway, and third at Dover International Speedway.

In Week 14, he finally scored his first win of the season, but even that came with an asterisk. Elliott was off sequence at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) and would not have won unless the race had gone green.

Elliott's saving grace in 2021 was the strength of Hendrick Motorsports.

The following week in the Coke 600, Elliott finished second in a race where Hendrick swept the top five. Kyle Larson won. Elliott was second to Larson again the following week at Sonoma Raceway in a race he should have dominated.

Elliott entered the playoffs ranked fifth with 21 playoff bonus points. He would need them as the No. 9 earned back-to-back top-10s just once during the final 10 races. He still had not earned an oval track win.

And his season was still defined by near misses.

The No. 9 came close at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a second to Denny Hamlin. Elliott had a car capable of winning at Bristol Motor Speedway before he was doored by Kevin Harvick as they raced for the lead in heavy traffic. The feud that developed when Elliott spoiled Harvick's chance of winning, (and extending a consecutive race streak to 11 years), took him out of contention at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval when he was intentionally wrecked by the No. 4. Elliott finished second at Kansas Speedway and dominated the first two stages of the penultimate race at Martinsville Speedway.

By now, Elliott was the second-ranked driver with championship odds of +250.

The Season Finale 500k could have gone to any of the four drivers. Elliott came out of the block early and challenged late, but the final adjustment was not right, and he finished fifth. He watched Larson celebrate his first Cup championship.

Again there is hidden good news, however. For much of the season, Hendrick Motorsports was the dominant force. Led by Larson's 10 wins, the organization took home nearly half of the 2021 trophies and that is going to give them momentum heading into 2022.

2021 Season

Race
No.

Track

Finish

Start

Race
Odds

Champ
Odds

1.

Daytona oval

2

12

1000

500

2.

Daytona road

21

1

195

550

3.

Homestead

14

11

600

550

4.

Las Vegas

13

8

850

550

5.

Phoenix

5

6

600

550

6.

Atlanta

38

5

775

600

7.

Bristol dirt

10

26

1400

600

8.

Martinsville

2

5

625

650

9.

Richmond

12

3

900

600

10.

Talladega

24

8

1100

600

11.

Kansas

5

17

800

600

12.

Darlington

7

6

1100

650

13.

Dover

3

8

900

650

14.

COTA

1

8

240

750

15.

Charlotte oval

2

3

625

700

16.

Sonoma

2

2

250

700

17.

Nashville

39

6

1000

700

18.

Pocono

12

29

725

650

19.

Pocono

27

9

1100

750

20.

Road America

1

34

260

750

21.

Atlanta

7

1

900

550

22.

New Hampshire

18

3

850

550

23.

Watkins Glen

2

11

180

600

24.

Indy road

4

3

200

600

25.

Michigan

8

2

800

600

26.

Daytona oval

8

5

1400

600

27.

Darlington

31

4

1000

600

28.

Richmond

4

13

1100

900

29.

Bristol paved

25

4

850

750

30.

Las Vegas

2

11

900

750

31.

Talladega

18

3

1100

800

32.

Charlotte roval

12

8

215

800

33.

Texas

7

6

775

550

34.

Kansas

2

5

800

550

35.

Martinsville

16

2

675

300

36.

Phoenix

5

2

360

250

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