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Elliott ‘Didn’t Want to Celebrate’ Odd Pocono Win Last Year

(Photo: Wayne Riegle | The Podium Finish)

LONG POND, Pa. — Chase Elliott crossed the line third in last year’s Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway. Not thinking anything of it, he left the track, got in his plane and headed home.

When he landed, text messages started pouring in. Denny Hamlin, who crossed the line first, and Kyle Busch, who crossed the line second, got disqualified in post-race inspection for illegal modifications to the front fascia of their cars. Elliott ended up winning.

Hamlin gave Elliott the trophy but kept the checkered flag for his daughter. However, Elliott didn’t want to celebrate the victory under the odd circumstances.

“I didn’t want to celebrate it, personally. That’s not how I want to win a race,” Elliott said at Pocono Raceway on Friday. “I don’t think anyone at Hendrick Motorsports or on the No. 9 team in particular wants to win that way. We all want to go win them out-right and make sure we feel like we earned it. We want to earn it every week … The whole deal was kind of odd. But it is what it is – it wasn’t anything I did, it just worked out, I guess.

“We were credited with the win, but I don’t feel like we had a stellar run. We were decent, but certainly not like we came up here and dominated the race like you want to have happen. So, a little bit of a different vibe and I am not sure that I really….certainly not in the NASCAR time, I never remember being gifted a win like that.”

Elliott would prefer to win this year’s Pocono race the traditional way, and it’d be a convenient time to do it. The 27-year-old from Dawsonville, Georgia sits 23rd in driver’s points and in a near must-win scenario to make the playoffs at 60 points below the cutline.

Elliott missed seven races this season because of injury and suspension. He fractured his tibia in a snowboarding accident in March and missed six races, and after intentionally crashing Denny Hamlin at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May, NASCAR suspended him for the following race at WWT Raceway.

In the five races since his suspension, Elliott has three top fives and finishes of 13th at Atlanta Motor Speedway and 12th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He acknowledged that this recent stretch has been solid for his NAPA Racing team, but was disappointed with his run at New Hampshire after participating in a test at the track in the spring.

(Photo: Josh Jones | The Podium Finish)

“Loudon was terrible. We struggled all weekend really, which I was disappointed and I think as a team, we all were,” Elliott explained. “We had a good test up there a couple of months ago and it hasn’t been a great track for me, so I was super excited to get some extra laps, and go up there and try to get better at a place that hasn’t been super good. I thought we did that and made a lot of gains, and went back and we were just horrendous. We didn’t really understand why – we came back in a very similar manner to when we left and we just missed.

“I want to get better and I want to be fighting for wins each week and kind of get in the mix of those guys that when you walk in here after the race, you are not surprised to see have won an event. That is the group that I have always wanted to be in and just let the rest figure itself out. If I am up here and we are fighting for top fives and fighting for wins on a weekly basis, I am good. The rest of the stuff is going to work itself out eventually.”

With just six races remaining in the regular season, Elliott’s opportunities are dwindling to score that elusive victory. The series stops at Richmond Raceway next weekend, a place where he hasn’t won in Cup but the No. 9 car driven by Josh Berry finished second in the spring. Afterward, it’ll be Michigan International Speedway before consecuitve road courses at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Watkins Glen — a style of track where Elliott has seven wins on his career. The regular season will conclude at Daytona International Speedway.

As he’s trying to fight his way in, Elliott said that he already has a playoff mindset.

(Photo: Kevin Ritchie | The Podium Finish)

“You have one magic race track that gets you in the playoffs.. that’s not going to get you to Phoenix,” Elliott said. “We want to be good every week and we’re capable of being good every week. It’s not just that we want to, it’s that we’re capable of doing it. We need to go and make it happen. That’s where I want to get to and we’re going to keep working really hard to get there, and hopefully we can get in the show. And if we don’t, we’re going to continue to work really hard throughout the rest of the year – whether we get in or not – to try and win, improve and make ourselves better.

“It doesn’t really feel a ton different I guess than like a Playoff run, like in the final 10. In those situations like in years past….like last year when we had a good year, we had a lot of Playoff points going into the post-season and I am glad we did because that got us to Phoenix (Raceway). But in years that we didn’t, it was about that you had to show up every week and really get it in those last 10 if you wanted to advance, and that is really kind of how it feels now.”

Sunday’s 400 is set for 2:30 p.m. ET on USA Network, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.


Nathan Solomon serves as the managing editor of The Podium Finish. He has been part of the team since 2021 and is accredited by the National Motorsports Press Association. Solomon is a senior in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. Contact him at

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