NASCAR Cup Series
Southern 500 Massively Tightens Playoff Grid
Sep 6, 2022
In adherence to his long public stance towards compartmentalizing misfortune or setbacks, Chase Elliott said he quickly processed what happened early in the Southern 500 and moved on.
That meant no arithmetic to ascertain how many points he would be above the Cup Series playoff elimination cutline or how the other contenders fared. The 2020 Cup Series champion simply got on the plane, and by time it landed in North Georgia, had already turned the page towards focusing on the matter at hands this coming weekend at Kansas Speedway.
For the record, Elliott dropped from first and 33 points above the cutline to ninth and 14 points back, all the result of a spin on and crash on Lap 113 involving Chase Briscoe that broke the toe link on the Hendrick Motorsports No. 9.
And he really didn’t put much thought into trying to figure that out in real time.
"To be honest, that wasn't my thought process," Elliott said on Tuesday during a media teleconference. "My thought process was, you know, dang, ‘hate we had our day go like that.’ You know in moments like that, with the points and everyone being as close as they are, you're going to be in this situation where everyone is really close to us and will stay that way through Bristol unless you get a win.
"I didn't think, ‘this is where we are going to be’ or ‘this is where we are going to end up.’ The situation is what it is and I understood it as soon as it happened. I wasn't trying to speculate where that would be while the event was still going on."
To take that a step further, Elliott didn’t even know what the results were until he landed and took a cursory glance at his phone.
"Honestly, (I) just look at it later, because there is absolutely nothing I can do about it," Elliott said. "When you have a bad day and you fall out of the race, yeah, my hands are tied, and at that point, there’s nothing I can do other than just see where it shakes, and then on Monday just recognize where we are and the situation we’re in and go from there. That’s really about it. You can sit there and study it and watch and this and that, but it’s not going to do you any good. You can’t do anything about it."
Despite winning the championship in 2020, this was the first time that Elliott had won the regular season championship and entered the final 10 races as the top seeded driver. During his championship run, he came on late to put together his best streak of finishes in the races that mattered the most, while top-seeded Kevin Harvick suffered a series of setbacks in the Round of 8 that saw his surprise elimination.
As a result, he entered this playoff feigning no overconfidence and certainly didn’t think he would be able to cruise to the championship race at Phoenix in November. And candidly, a race like Sunday was why Elliott felt that way.
"I told you all week last week that no one is safe, and I was including ourselves," Elliott said. "I don’t think anybody is safe in any of the rounds. I thought that before Sunday, and I will continue to think that here on Tuesday."