Chase Elliott still happy with Pocono finish despite 'a big mistake'
Chase Elliott had reasons to be optimistic following his fourth-place finish in Monday's rain-delayed Axalta We Paint Winners 400 at Pocono Raceway.
But as often is the case with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie who seems to be harder on himself than anyone else, Elliott also openly questioned whether what he called "a big mistake" on his part might have cost him a shot at his first victory in the series.
Elliott led a race-high 51 laps in his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. But on a restart with 33 laps to go, he was first passed by teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. and then by eventual race winner Kurt Busch shortly therafter.
Elliott never could regain the lead after that. He eventually was passed by Brad Keselowski as well and had to settle for the fourth-place run.
"For us to be able to contend and lead laps all day and have a car that could fight for the lead the majority of the day, I thought was great," Elliott said. "Obviously I made a big mistake there behind Dale in the tunnel (turn) after that restart. I wish I had been a little more patient and given ourselves a better chance, but you live and you learn."
The odd thing was that on previous restarts when he had been in the lead, Elliott seemed to be able to pull away from the field. But not on that last crucial last one.
"The lead is the best place to be," said Elliott, who moved up to seventh in the Sprint Cup points standings with his fifth top-five finish of the season. "If you can clear those guys before you get to Turn 1, you kind of have whatever lane you want and you hope that the guys behind you are still two-wide. And if that's the case they just don't have the air they need to run as fast coming out of a corner.
"It's just a big aero advantage to be out front. We see that every week."
What hasn't been seen every week but did occur at Pocono was a strong showing pretty much across the board by the Hendrick Motorsports Chevys. In addition to Elliott, Earnhardt finished second and a third Hendrick driver, Kasey Kahne, came home in sixth.
The only Hendrick driver to finish outside the top six was six-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who was running well until being involved in a late-race accident. He finished 35th in the 40-car field.
"I'm definitely really proud of our team and the work that everybody at Hendrick has put in," Elliott said. "I felt like we had four really fast cars (Monday). I hope that's a good sign for races to come. We certainly had I feel like one of our best days of the year personally."