AVONDALE, Ariz. — Chase Elliott’s championship hopes went out the window in Stage 3 after contact with Ross Chastain sent him spinning into the inside wall.
Elliott lined up in front of Chastain on a Lap 200 restart and both looked to cut across the frontstretch dogleg. Elliott was hit in his rear quarter panel by Chastain and spun into the wall, his right side suffering damage.
He limped his No. 9 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports to pit road and radioed that the car had heavy damage. He lost just one lap while his team attempted repairs.
On the restart, Elliott made minimum speed but was well off the pace. He fell two laps down on Lap 232, which became insurmountable. Elliott finished 29th.
“I felt like we just kind of peaked right there before we crashed, and I felt like we got our car driving pretty good,” Elliott said. “I thought we had a shot at it all the way up until we didn’t, and that’s, unfortunately, the way it goes sometimes.
“Ended our day and ended our chance at a win or a championship. Just disappointing.”
Elliott finished sixth in Stage 1 after starting the race fifth. He split the second stage and pitted with 32 laps left in the stage to try and gain a tire advantage. He finished 12th but cycled back to sixth after pit stops since he needed less fuel than other competitors.
In the final laps of Stage 2 and into Stage 3, Elliott thought his car had started to reach its full potential.
“We had gotten it driving about as good as it had been all weekend,” Elliott said. “We had been adjusting to that point, and I thought we had gotten into a decent spot. It’s hard to tell. We were out there on fresher tires, and other guys were on old stuff.
“Would have loved to see what it looked like on the front couple of rows. I felt like we just had our best pit stop of the day, guys were rolling there on pit road. And yeah, would have loved a shot there at the end, but that’s the way it works.”
Elliott fell short of his second championship after a series-high five wins this season. But he’s in no mood to look forward to 2023.
Elliott will go Nitro Rallycross racing next weekend before decompressing over the winter. A promising season fell short for the 26-year-old.
“I don’t really care about 2023 right now,” he said. “Do not tell me what the countdown clock is because I don’t want to know.
“We’re going to enjoy a little time off … When we get back to Daytona next year, we’ll be ready to go.”