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XFINITY

OBSERVATIONS: Alsco 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway

While the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series continues to explore different packages to make the racing better, it seems the NASCAR Xfinity Series has the right method to the madness.

The hot temperatures on the Charlotte, North Carolina afternoon produced a slick race track, in return delivering the fans a show. With drivers searching for grip through the beginning stages of the event by using the middle lane that was coated in the traction compound, to trying to run as close to the wall as possible in the later half, there was a never a dull moment during the Alsco 300.

It also seems the flange-fit composite bodies being made mandatory for the 2019 season has made a big difference. While a bit of wall contact used to end someone’s day in the past, there is now the possibility to receive repairs and make a comeback. As a result, fans were entertained with seeing whether their favorite driver would be able to drive through the field, like Jeffrey Earnhardt overcoming a spin for a third-place finish.

As the tide continued to turn, nobody was able to throw Tyler Reddick off of his game. The master of rim-riding rose to the top in dominating fashion, pacing 110 of the 200 laps en route to winning the event. The defending series champion had a rough campaign en route to surprising at the year-end with the title last year. However, it seems he is leaving nothing to chance in using the lessons learned to finish races and do so up front.

His performance only shined that much more by the struggles of his closest competitors in the title hunt – Cole Custer and Christopher Bell. Custer finished 24th after contact with the outside wall late, while Bell placed 31st after running over debris and blowing a tire.

Ideally, though, Bell could’ve made his situation better by electing to head down pit road rather than ride around under caution with the flat, allowing it to blow the fender apart as it tore to shreds. His teammate Brandon Jones made the smarter decision in pitting immediately, and was able to fight back to run top-five late in the race before fading to 10th on older tires late.

The issues for both Bell and Jones could’ve been prevented if a caution for debris on the track was thrown by NASCAR. It seems that the sanctioning body missed the boat a couple times on Saturday, as they failed to throw the yellow flag late in the first stage for the same reason, resulting in nose damage for Custer. 

Kaulig Racing also raised a couple red flags today with their decisions. Austin Dillon had to get out of the car with 40 laps to go as a result of his ribs getting too hot from the heat, and carbon dioxide from crush panels being pushed in due to wall contact. The team elected to put Daniel Hemric in the car when Dillon’s complaints began. If you know there’s an issue, why would you put a driver in that is also scheduled like Dillon to run 600 miles on Sunday? 

On the flip side, it seems that JR Motorsports knows what they are doing as they placed all four of their entries in the top-seven at the checkered flag. Justin Allgaier led the way with a runner-up after taking four fresh tires late, while Noah Gragson overcame a pit road penalty to finish fourth.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Austin Dillon Penalized with Loss of Points Post-Race at Talladega

Following the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, the No. 3 Chevrolet of Austin Dillon was penalized by NASCAR officials.

Richard Childress Racing was found in violation of sections 20.4 Body; 20.4.11 Deck Lid; 20.20 of the NASCAR rulebook, which pertain to the rear deck lid, during pre-qualifying inspection. The rule states that the teams must use the piece as given to them by the manufacture; Dillon’s team added body filler to the deck lid. 

As a result, crew chief Danny Stockman was fined $25,000, with car chief Gregory Ebert suspended for the next Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. Additionally, they lost 10 driver and owner points. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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NASCAR Cup Series

Austin Dillon earns Busch Pole Award at Talladega

TALLADEGA, Ala. – Picking up significant speed from the first round of knockout qualifying to the second, Austin Dillon won the pole for Sunday’s GEICO 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Covering the 2.66-mile distance in 49.734 seconds (192.544 mph) in his No. 3 Chevrolet, Dillon edged first-round leader Aric Almirola (192.131 mph) for the top starting spot by .107 seconds. In Saturday’s first round, Dillon had run 192.108 mph to Almirola’s 192.324 mph.

The Busch Pole Award was Dillon’s first at Talladega, his second of the season and the fifth of his career.

Clint Bowyer qualified third at 191.723 mph, followed by Brad Keselowski and Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Daniel Hemric, Dillon’s teammate at Richard Childress Racing.

The final round featured six Chevrolet drivers and six Ford drivers. Martin Truex Jr. will start 20th in the fastest-qualifying Toyota. Ford drivers have won the last seven Talladega races.

Dillon’s pole run came on his 29th birthday. It was the first Talladega pole for the No. 3 car since Dale Earnhardt, a 10-time winner at the track, claimed the top starting spot in 1994. Richard Childress Racing is celebrating its 50th year in the sport and Talladega its 50th year as a NASCAR track.

“It’s RCR’s 50th Anniversary, and my grandfather (team owner Richard Childress) takes a lot of pride in these speedway races,” Dillon said. “To come here and get a pole, we felt like we had a car capable of doing that… And, man, it’s all of these guys (the team).

“I didn’t do nothing. Just holding the wheel straight. I did hold the wheel straight. I guess I did that. Fun times. Sunday is when it matters, though. We’d love to get a win and lock ourselves in the Playoffs, because these races are ones that you can really take advantage of because there’s a lot of points to get out there. And that’s what we’re going to do tomorrow.”

Almirola thought his final-round run might have been affected by a gust of wind.

“I think we got pretty close to backing up what we ran in the first round there, but I felt like the wind picked up a little bit more,” Almirola said. “I don’t know if that was it, or what the case was. All in all, it was a great run for us. I’m happy about starting on the front row with good track position to start the race and a good pit stall. All those things matter.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will start sixth, followed by Ryan Blaney, three-time Talladega winner and reigning series champion Joey Logano, Alex Bowman, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Michael McDowell.

Kevin Harvick earned the 19th pot on the grid, and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson qualified 21st.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Austin Dillon Not Satisfied With 2019 Start

We may not be far into the 2019 season; however, it has been an interesting one for Austin Dillon.

His No. 3 Richard Childress Racing team has shown signs of strength, with four top-10 starting spots, which included a pole at Auto Club Speedway. He has also been able to maintain that track position, by running towards the front during the races.

However, despite what seems like an improvement in performance, Dillon has lacked the ability to finish the race just as strong, with one top-10 finish through the first eight event.

With all of this in mind, it is hard to justify whether or not his current 18th-place standings in points is indicative or not of how this team is going to be this year.

It is not just Dillon having these problems though, as it seems like the entire Chevrolet camp has been on an odd stretch. Through eight races, none of their drivers winning a race so far.

Despite their lack of success, Dillon believes his team, as well as the manufacture, are heading in the right direction.

“We feel like the Chevrolets are in a better spot than we were last year. We’ve had speed in our camp, at RCR and ECR in a lot of the qualifying sessions, but we haven’t been able to turn it into finishing results that we’d like,” Dillon said. “Some of the Hendrick cars had some good speed last week. That’s good to see. And, Kurt Busch has also been pretty good all year. So, it’s moving in the right direction. I hope that we can continue the same path that we’re on and keep building on it. But, every week seems to be a different challenge, so we’re still progressing.”

While he believes there has been progress made, Dillon acknowledges that there are still improvements to be made moving forward.

“For me, we’re not where we need to be. We’re headed in the right direction. I do feel like we made steps this off-season. It’s cool to see some of the processes that were going forward, but we definitely can improve I feel like,” Dillon said. “There’s still improvement there and we need to see what other people are doing and do it better. That’s what this garage is all about is to see and look at it and try and recreate it and make it better. And, I’m proud of the effort that we’re putting in and bringing to the track. I think we’re halfway there. We’ve got still another half to get to where Chevy is winning and winning consistently like some of the other manufacturers are doing right now.”

The good news for Dillon is the upcoming schedule may prove to be towards his liking. Richmond Raceway and Dover International Speedway are both tracks where he had top-10’s last year, and Talladega Superspeedway is a place where the No. 3 is used to running towards the front.

These races may also serve as statement events for him and his team. Dillon has proven he can run towards the front; now it is a matter of showing they can finish there too.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Austin Dillon wins Busch Pole Award at Auto Club

FONTANA, Calif. – Austin Dillon didn’t make it to the start-finish line in time to turn a lap in the final session of knockout qualifying at Auto Club Speedway.

And yet the driver of the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet won the pole for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at the 2-mile track (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) — because no one else made it to the stripe in the final round, either.

In a bizarre money round in Friday’s time trials, all 12 drivers waited too long on pit road before starting their runs, with none wanting to be first in the draft. The cars were exiting Turn 4 when time expired, and that meant a reversion to Round 2, which Dillon led.

Hence, Dillon won the fourth Busch Pole Award of his career, his first since 2016 and his second at Auto Club. In a sense, it was poetic justice that Dillon was the top qualifier for Sunday’s 200-lap race. He was the only driver in either round to break 40 seconds (39.982), and the only driver to top 180 mph (180.081) in either round.

o post that lap in the second round, Dillon and crew chief Danny Stockman adjusted for a strong wind blowing across Turns 3 and 4. Then Dillon hit a perfect position in the draft.

“It was really pushing you in the corner in 3 and 4,” Dillon said. “In the middle of the corner, I had a tight balance most of my day. I couldn’t run wide open. I talked to Stockman through it, kind of telling him where that point was.

“I thought the wind changed going into practice (earlier in the day). I felt like it was coming from Turn 2 to 4. When I got out of the car after practice, it was really shooting right into the middle of 3 and 4. So I went and told him the reason we were tight had to be the wind. We freed up around that, and I changed a little bit of my driving style to accommodate the car … and we ended up on top.”

Kevin Harvick qualified second at 179.386 mph, based on his second-round speed. Aric Almirola (179.082 mph) claimed the third starting spot, followed by Kyle Busch (178.895 mph), who can earn his 200th NASCAR national series victory this weekend with a win in either Saturday’s Production Alliance Group 300 Xfinity Series race or in Sunday’s Cup event.

As the seconds counted down in the final session, Dillon waited, knowing he had the pole if no one else moved in time. When the clock ticked below 47 seconds (the time it would have taken to get from the end of pit road back to the start-finish line), the pole was his.

“When the 18 (Kyle Busch) made a little bit of a move there, I just rode on his door, because I was going to follow him and just have one car to beat,” Dillon said. “I didn’t have to make it back around. And then the 12 (10th-place qualifier Ryan Blaney) came through the grass — I thought he demolished his car. It looked like he left the ground over there. I don’t know what he did, but it was pretty wild.

“At that point my spotter said, ‘It’s over. You can bring it around here,’ and I knew we had gotten the pole.”

Joey Logano qualified fifth, Denny Hamlin sixth and Ryan Newman seventh. Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer, Blaney, Jimmie Johnson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. completed the top 12, as Ford drivers accounted for seven of the final-round positions.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

OBSERVATIONS: Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

After seeing fans and drivers contest the lack of passing and exciting racing on the intermediate tracks, NASCAR implemented a higher-downforce, lower-horsepower competition package. There were some positives, but it certainly did not deliver to the expectations touted before the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Through testing in January, pack racing was evident with the drivers unable to get away from each other through a 20-lap run. As a result, the restarts were predicted to be chaotic, and they certainly were. Drivers were three-wide around the Las Vegas Motor Speedway as they got runs on each other virtue of the air being disturbed by the new high rear spoiler. 

You also had the ability to pass back and forth over the course of  a run, with drivers making their way forward as much as they went backwards. Kyle Busch made his way back up to third despite a pit road speeding penalty in the second stage, while Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski swapped the top spot back and forth. There was also a battle between Busch and Logano in stage two for first, as well. 

However, drivers having to rely on other cars to get runs and draft with fellow competitors really doesn’t constitute to what “true racing” is supposed to be in saying everybody go as hard as they can with their own equipment. That is where the package has it’s biggest downfall with several drivers and fans.

“The cars don’t have any speed,” Busch said post-race. “You’re wide open just trying to suck off of any car that you can that’s in front of you to get a draft. I was running 31-flats when I was chasing those leaders down and then once I got there, I stalled out to 31.40s because the wind was just so bad behind those guys that you couldn’t corner anymore, you couldn’t maneuver. I couldn’t run low if they ran low and I couldn’t run high if they ran high so you’re always trying to figure out which way to go.”

Frankly, those battles were great to watch, but they don’t make up for the rest of the run.

The further you got into a run, the more spread out the cars got and essentially, you were stuck watching everybody run single file – and it happened only 15 laps into a run for the first stage, compared to 20 like testing. The second and third restarts would see the field stay closer for a longer period of time, thanks to everybody being held by the leader playing the strategy card – Keselowski taking two tires to start stage two, while Kurt Busch stayed out in the final stage.

You can see the idea of keeping the cars closer together falling apart when you see less than 20 cars on the lead lap. The drivers were even bored with Clint Bowyer telling his team that it was “pretty boring” and taking them for a lap by leaving the radio on for a full lap, letting the engine noise play, without any crack in the throttle.

Anybody remember the days of having to watch the drivers battle against the handling of the cars, cracking the gas at times due to sliding sideways? Darrell Waltrip touting “the cars are more driveable at this speed,” doesn’t make the fans feel any better when the racing puts them to sleep. 

The new package also showed the more things change, the more things stay the same as the familiar races reigned at the front of the field. The Big Three from last year (Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, and Kyle Busch), along with 2018 series champion Logano spent the day in the top-five, now joined by Logano’s teammate.

The ideology that the new package would allow some of the smaller teams to mix it up at the front was lost today, too. 

NASCAR on Fox’s TV Coverage has been a constant topic of discussion, and not in the lightest way possible. On top of fans criticizing Michael Waltrip‘s “Grid Walk” segment for the goofiness and the commentary heard from the booth, they need to be reminded about how to show a race properly.

As the leaders spread out single-file 15 to 20 laps into a run, they chose to focus on them and talk about drivers individually. Why not show “zoo-like” back half of the field that Aric Almirola described to give us some entertainment?

Additionally, they also chose to take three commercial breaks in the first 40 laps, and missed the first batch of leaders heading in for green flag pit stops. They also showed advertisements, rather than the three-way battle for first that was shaping up. 

If NASCAR ever wants to make the package more exciting to watch, they need to consult with their broadcast partners in showcasing what they are doing. 

Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson were both touted early for their speed and ability, with thoughts of them being in the discussion for the victory. Unfortunately, they were both handed a pit road penalty that they were unable to overcome.

For Larson, it marks the second straight week in a row that he has seen his run fooled by something happened on pit road. He showed the speed last year to contend for victories and be part of the Championship 4, though saw his playoff chances folded by engine failures. He needs to find some consistency if he is even going to dream of making a run this year.

Kyle Busch was also fooled by a pit road penalty, caught speeding as previously mentioned. While he overcame loose wheels in both the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series to win, he was only able to get back to third today. 

NASCAR may have gotten the officiating right in the race per the rulebook, but that doesn’t mean they are not insane in the process. Larson and Dillon were both penalizing for “having too many men over the wall.” The additional crew member didn’t service the car, nor they did step on pit road. Essentially, they reached over to help retrieve the tires as they were being rolled over to the wall and touched the ground. 

There’s one thing to make rules for safety, and another for fair competition. Then there’s insanity, which is what this is. Essentially, if I slip my footing a little and touch the ground, my team is screwed? That seems a little harsh.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Rough Atlanta Preps Austin Dillon for Vegas

Austin Dillon’s weekend at the Atlanta Motor Speedway was going well through Friday and Saturday as he showed speed, ranking in the top five in both practice sessions and qualified 10th for Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.

When the green flag dropped on Sunday, his weekend hit a bump and went downhill. Dillon started to fall back as his car wasn’t living up to what we saw in practice. During the gloomy cold cloudy days which were on Friday and Saturday his car seemed the best; however, when the sun was out on Sunday, his machine couldn’t handle the warmest day of the weekend.

What could have gone wrong to the No. 3 Dow Chevy Camaro? The team missed the set-up due to feeling confidence with the handling after practice, and not realizing the race wouldn’t be under cloudy skies.

Dillon and the other drivers still need to get used to the new rules package, so it’s easy to understand how they could’ve been a little off in the direction they went. Midway through the first stage, Dillon referenced the team going the wrong way with their choices.

“It was definitely a learning experience for our Dow Racing team today at Atlanta Motor Speedway,” Dillon said. “We missed on the setup a little at the beginning of the race and that made our bed for the rest of the race. This team has a lot of determination, though, and we never gave up.”

With Dillon never giving up during the run, he still battled to make gains and get better. Even if he wasn’t contending for the win, Dillon was getting used to the handling of the rules package which he’s going to need for future races.

“My crew chief, Danny Stockman, and the team made major adjustments throughout the race to try and get the handling better,” Dillon said. “By the end of the race, we were running the No. 42 car down, who had led a lot of the race, and that’s a testament to how hard this team works and all of the changes we made during the race.”

The new rules package will be in full affect during the upcoming weekend at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“We’re building a notebook for this new package, and I have confidence that our team will be in the fight next week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway,” Dillon said.

Dillon and his team are looking for better in race improvement. If they can add to that while practicing and qualifying well, look for Dillon to start making noise during the season. The season is still young, and there is still a lot to learn and look forward for the No. 3 team.

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Austin Dillon Riding High Into NASCAR Playoffs

LAS VEGAS, Nev — For Austin Dillon, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs stands as another opportunity to prove himself at the sport’s top level.

It marks the third time in-a-row that the 28-year-old has been one of the drivers chasing a championship in the final ten races, an impressive feat for someone just in his fifth full Cup Series season.

“It shows our consistency,” Dillon told POPULAR SPEED. “That we can win races and that we can also be consistent if we don’t have the speed to win. We’ve done it a couple of different ways now, and we want to continue to build and get better each and every race.”

It could be argued that he has never been more prepared to succeed.

After all, Dillon was the first to qualify for the playoffs, after winning the Daytona 500 to open the season. That means his team at Richard Childress Racing has had since February to allow themselves time to get ready for this chance at a championship.

However, since winning the sport’s biggest race, it had seemed like the No. 3 was falling rather than, improving, only finishing in the top-10 twice in the following 20 events.

Though that doesn’t mean they head into Las Vegas in a bad way, as following his drought without success, Dillon was able to find a big boost in confidence at Michigan in August, where he qualified fifth, ran well all day, and finish fourth.

“I feel really good. I think the time of the year we found speed and it is the right time of year to find it,” Dillon said. “Michigan was a really good run for us, we’ve had some good runs after that, so hopefully the momentum we’ve gained here at the end of the season and put ourselves in a good position in the playoffs.”

What could be a crucial key to his success, is continuing to get stronger, especially in the first round, because if he stays in the hunt come Talladega, we could see more restrictor plate magic from him.

Early success will be critical for Dillon, as he will start the playoffs in 11th with only a two-point margin over the cutoff.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

OBSERVATIONS: Consumers Energy 400

While there shouldn’t be any questions about the speed of Kevin Harvick, the remaining doubts were certainly erased on Sunday when he dominated the Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

A lot has been made about the big three – Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, and Harvick – and which of those will go into the playoffs with the most momentum. With the final 10 races consisting of a majority of intermediates, including the host of the season-finale, this was a message sent to the field that you better up your game if you’re going to walk away with the championship trophy this season. That’s showcased by the Stewart-Haas Racing team now boasting the most playoff points with 40, compared to Busch’s 35.

That said, Busch ran up front as well on Sunday as he was third in the final rundown with a brand new chassis from Joe Gibbs Racing. Clearly, they haven’t pushed it far enough based on what we saw though.

In-between the pair was a familiar foe of them both in the form of Brad Keselowski, who turns the ship around with a runner-up after three finishes outside of the top-15.

The biggest surprise here is the fact that Team Penske has only won a single race this year, coming at Talladega Superspeedway with Joey Logano. But that’ll happen when three competitors from other organizations are dominating, I suppose. After all, Hendrick Motorsports got their first win of the year last weekend. Team Penske may be next to break through as Ryan Blaney joined Keselowski in the top-five with a fifth.

Austin Dillon has a win this year, as he opened the year in victory lane with the Daytona 500. Since then, we haven’t heard much from the Richard Childress Racing driver. However, he showed speed with a fourth so the next few weeks could be interesting to see where the momentum goes.

While there are plenty of talking points when it comes to the playoffs, the actual race itself was just average. You had some side-by-side battles for position, but mostly the field was spread out throughout the day and strategy at the end only adding a touch of spice. Also, at times when you’d have battles in the pack, NBC just focused on the top-five single-file so that made nap time more attractive.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Sonoma Momentum Puts Elliott Closer to Victory

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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EMAIL JASON AT jason.schultz@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.