Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Chase Elliott Emerging as Title Contender
We have reached the halfway point in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, and already a few drivers have proved to be possible serious contenders for the championship come November. While the likes of Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr remain the center of attention, there is one competitor that may not be getting talked about enough – Chase Elliott.
Yes, it may be strange to consider the 21-year-old undervalued given the hype surrounding him. However, the consideration given to him may be directed the wrong ways. When it comes to Elliott, the main talking point usually revolves around the fact he replaced Jeff Gordon and how he still remains winless. Instead, it should be focused on his impressive stat sheet this season, especially in recent weeks.
As we’ve seen in the past, being consistent can play a significant role in winning a championship, and that is what Elliott has been. In the last six races, he has tallied five top-10’s (most of any drivers), three top five’s (tied for most with Larson and Truex), and has only finished outside the top-eight once. The numbers become more impressive considering the wide variety of tracks covered in that span.
It may only be his second season at NASCAR’s highest level, but he’s already shown significant signs of improvement. At seven out of the 17 tracks visited so far this season, Elliott has outdone his previous best finishes and is on track to surpass all of his stats from his rookie season. It is common as drivers tend to get better with experience; however, this is a competitor that made it to the Round of 12 in last year’s playoffs. If he continues to keep getting better at the rate that he has all season, the sky is the limit for this team.
Now the big thing many harp on is how Elliott still hasn’t captured his first win, which is a fair argument considering how NASCAR’s playoffs system rewards winning more than anything else. However, with the team performing this way, it’s only a matter of time before they bring the No. 24 back to victory lane. In addition to that, look at what he has done without winning a race. He currently is seated fifth in points and sits in front of several of the biggest names in the sport. One could even make the argument that Elliott has been Hendrick Motorsports’ top driver so far, out-front of teammate and seven-time champion, Jimmie Johnson, who with three wins still sits a ninth in points, 41 points behind him.
Regardless, it’s time to stop talking about who he replaced, and rather discuss the fact that in less than two years, he and his team have established that they can get the job done. Elliott is performing like a driver that can win the championship, and should be treated as so.
Mitchell Breuer is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist
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