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Sonoma Momentum Puts Elliott Closer to Victory

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The focus placed on Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet through the first 16 races of 2018 has centered around their struggles.

The manufacturer’s lone victory came with Austin Dillon in the DAYTONA 500 as they continue to show growing pains associated with the new Chevrolet Camaro body style in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

However, Chase Elliott’s season, especially over the past two months, tells a different story.

A fourth-place finish Sunday at Sonoma Raceway was Elliott’s fifth top-10 in the last eight races.

While he hasn’t yet competed for victories like he did at the conclusion of 2017, the month of June marked significant progress in the right direction.

He captured three top-10 finishes, marking the longest streak of the season for the No. 9 team as they head to Elliott’s strongest track, Chicagoland Speedway.

In two starts, the 22-year-old has never finished worse than third and led multiple laps in each race.

While his second-place finish was ruled encumbered after last September’s playoff opener, the performance mirrored his run as a rookie and showed his skill at the 1.5-mile track.

It’s a place where he excelled in the NASCAR Xfinity Series as well, scoring a victory in his first career start at the speedway in July 2014 behind the wheel for JR Motorsports.

A strong showing in Sunday’s Overton’s 400 would be extremely timely for Elliott and Chevrolet as a whole.

Mirroring Toyota’s performance from the second half of 2017 is an attainable goal for Chevrolet teams. Toyota struggled for the first half of the year with their new Camry body before dominating beginning in July and going onto capture the championship with Martin Truex Jr.

A turnaround must be mounted now for Chevrolet to see a similar scenario unfold and emerge as a weekly threat. 

While Sonoma’s road course layout doesn’t allow for an accurate performance measurement, it can demonstrate momentum and Hendrick Motorsports is gaining it heading into the summer stretch.

Placing Elliott, Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson in the top-11 in Northern California marked much-improved results for the organization.

Now Elliott can continue to lead the HMS climb with another impressive outing at Chicagoland.

He has been on the cusp of his first win for years now but his best opportunity may present itself on Sunday and could put HMS and Chevrolet in a position for a second-half resurgence.

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Jason Schultz

Jason Schultz aspires to enter the public relations field of NASCAR. Schultz, 19, attends UNC Charlotte and is a communication studies major with a focus in public relations. In addition to contributing to POPULAR SPEED, Schultz produces podcasts for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Dirty Mo Radio. He also completed a semester as a social media intern at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Each year, he volunteers as the social media correspondent for Autism Delaware's Drive for Autism golf tournament featuring NASCAR personalities and the AAA 400 Drive for Autism Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover.