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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Chase Elliott didn’t think finishing second would be good enough to advance to the next round of the playoffs.
Then, suddenly, it was.
A chaotic overtime finish allowed Chase Elliott to overcome a three-point deficit and make it to the Round of 8 for the third consecutive season.
“I was under the impression that we had to win. All day,” Elliott said after his runner-up finish Sunday at Kansas Speedway. “I was just trying to do whatever we had to do to do that.”
Elliott was not aware of what happened behind him so when he crossed the finish line, he thought he had failed to advance.
But second proved to be good enough when Brad Keselowski lost six spots on the final two laps. That allowed Elliott to pass Keselowski in the points for the final transfer spot.
“I felt like for us to come here and battle for the win is what a really good team is made of and what you’re going to have to do if you’re going to make it to Homestead,” Elliott said of next month’s title race.
Before he could look ahead, Elliott had to maneuver through numerous obstacles Sunday.
At the end of the first stage, Elliott pushed Joey Logano — who entered the race holding the final transfer spot that Elliott sought — and helped Logano win that stage and gain 10 points. Elliott finished second and gained nine points.
Why help the driver he was racing at the time for the final transfer spot?
“At that point I was going to do what was best for me,” Elliot said. “Unfortunately, it helped him. At the point in time it was the best thing I could do for myself. In those situations, you have to be as selfish as you can. Unfortunately, it was the best option and he happened to be the guy in front of me. It wasn’t by dumb luck. He put himself in a good position. He’s pretty sharp on that.”
Elliott faced greater challenges later in the race. On the first of two overtime restarts, Elliott was surrounded by Joe Gibbs Racing cars. Denny Hamlin led and restarted on the inside, putting Elliott, who was second, in the outside line. The second row featured Kyle Busch on the inside line and Erik Jones on the outside line.
“To be honest with you, I feel like all those guys pushed pretty hard,” Elliott said. “I was a little surprised that (Jones) gave me as good a shove as he did on that restart so appreciate that. At the end of the day, those guys moving their lane forward is going to help them. It might not look right at first, but you never know what is going to happen on the backstretch or down into Turn 3 that could give that guy behind you a shot to win. You’re just trying to do whatever you can to put yourself in a better position.”
Elliott was second on the final overtime restart but couldn’t make a move to get by Hamlin for the win.
“Had a good restart … and gave Denny a good push, and I think William (Byron) didn’t get as good of a restart and he wasn’t pushing me and that’s was what I kind of needed, I felt like, to give Denny a run,” Elliott said. “Once we singled out, it takes more than a couple of laps to get the momentum up now, so it was going to be really tough. Denny did a good job of running the bottom and not making any mistakes. From there it was luck, whoever messed up … and gave us those three points we needed.”
Elliott’s title hopes continue. The Round of 8 begins next weekend at Martinsville Speedway.
“Martinsville has been hit or miss for us,” he said. “Ran good there in the spring. Ran bad there last fall.
“We just need to do our homework this week and focus on it. We can run decent at Texas. I think we can run really strong at Phoenix.”