For Chase Elliott and the other drivers outside of the top four this week, it all comes down to the race at Phoenix (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC) and to advance, Elliott will likely need the performance of a lifetime.
Elliott is 39 points below the cutoff line; the most points available in a race is 60.
Elliott has never finished worse than 12th at Phoenix in five starts. That led him to say after last week’s Texas race “I feel better about Phoenix than I did about today, for sure. … I mean, I don’t know till we get there. Yeah, tough spot to be in. But ultimately you got to be in a must-win situation at Homestead if you ever make it down there, so you might as well get used to it and like it.”
Simply running well will not be enough, according to NASCAR America analyst Kyle Petty.
“(Elliott) does run fairly well (at Phoenix),” Petty said on Tuesday. “But again, he runs ‘fairly well’, he runs ‘pretty good.’ He runs ‘ok.’ … These guys have to have exceptional performance this week. We’ve seen Chase run seventh at Martinsville, have one of the best races at Martinsville that he’s had finish-wise – his second-best finish there in his career, although it’s been a short career … but he lost 28 points.”
Last year in this race, Elliott was also in a must-win situation to advance. He took the lead from Matt Kenseth on Lap 284 and was punching Miami into his GPS. On Lap 303 – nine laps from the end of the race – Kenseth got back around Elliott sending him to second. In 2017, Elliott losing the lead late in a race was a common theme. This year, he’s won three times already.
“It’s who you’re racing against,” Petty said. “That is the problem, the mountain that these guys have to climb. They’re racing Joey Logano. They’re racing Kevin Harvick. They’re racing Kyle Busch. They’re racing Martin Truex. Those are the guys they’ve got to beat. And you know why those guys are the top four? Because no one has beat them most of the year.”
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