In what was a very publicized return, Chase Elliott had plenty of up-and-down moments. The struggles were real, but by the end of Sunday's 400-lap race at Martinsville Speedway, Elliott was able to show why he can never be counted out.
Elliott showed plenty of fight throughout the race, as he struggled to have a good-feeling race car. His crew chief, Alan Gustafson, had plenty of tough pit strategies to call as Elliott struggled with a race car that felt stiff in the rear. That made it hard for Elliott to make up ground from his 24th starting place on the grid.
The Martinsville, Virginia track is already a tough place to pass, even if you have a good-handling race car. Elliott ran around 20th for most of the day and failed to earn any stage points. Luckily for him, the final long run of the race helped Chase and his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson — the eventual winner — make the passes they needed to end the day on a high note.
Elliott was able to pass a lot of cars over the final 30 laps and ended the day with a very impressive 10th-place finish. That is huge, given that he hadn't been in a real race car since Fontana — the second race of the season — after breaking his left leg in a snowboarding accident.
In terms of his surgically repaired tibia, many feared he wasn't going to be able to handle all the braking needed to make it through a race at Martinsville, but he handled himself well in that regard.
Elliott looked in good spirits about his leg after the race
"I feel fine," he said on pit road, with a towel over his shoulder, moving his weight to his right side. "I'm certainly tired just because I've been sitting on the couch at home. But other than that, my leg and knee are stiff, but it doesn't hurt or anything like that. So I'm about where I thought I would be."
Elliott said the last run wasn't a result of him saving the car at the beginning of the race. He jokingly said, "We were just that bad."
"We definitely got better," Elliott said. "Really, the last run was our only good stint, so it was nice to get there. I thought we were in the ballpark at that point but were out of time. To get a top 10 is something to be proud of."
Overall, the 2020 Cup Series champion — in his usual level-headedness — was happy with his much-anticipated return.
"We put up a good fight and were able to finish strong. That's always a good thing."
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