Daytona 500 pole-sitter Chase Elliott received quite the education on Thursday night during his Can-Am Duel at Daytona qualifying race.
The 20-year-old rookie of the year contender finished sixth, but found himself on the wrong side of a restrictor plate freight train on two different occasions, which continually buried him outside of the top 10.
Even though he rallied to the outskirts of a top five, Elliott was not entirely satisfied and admitted he still had much to learn before the start of The Great American Race on Sunday night. Much of his guidance during the race came from Eddie D’Hondt, the spotter Elliott inherited from the recently retired Jeff Gordon.
“His job was to give me information and obviously, me never doing this before, he was trying to give me some tips,” Elliott said. “It was good.”
Elliott led the first two laps before Dale Earnhardt Jr. overtook him for the top spot, and the No. 24 struggled to stay with the leaders from the bottom groove. D’Hondt requested that Elliott “guard the middle” on three different occasions, and it wasn’t until Lap 15 that the driver could blend into the faster top line.
At the time, D’Hondt told his driver not to be discouraged, and “that was this was the first chance we had to get to the top. That’s just a tough deal. We’ll get back there.”
And they did.
The second-generation driver regained the lost track position following pit stops on Lap 45, but once again went backwards on the bottom line. Elliott also had six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson on his radio, providing tips alongside D’Hondt, and Elliott said he greatly benefited from the experience.
“That’s been good,” Elliott said. “He’s been doing this for a long time and it was good to get his insight on some things because it was our first time working at one of these (restrictor) plate tracks together. So we have a lot of work we need to work through together, that’s for sure.”
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