The 2023 season has been nothing but a misfortune for Chase Elliott and his No. 9 NAPA team, as the Dawsonville, Georgia, driver finds himself in the midst of a major slump.
Elliott has not gone to victory lane in 2023, and his playoff chances are all but shot. He missed seven races because of a leg injury and a one-race suspension for wrecking Denny Hamlin during the Coca-Cola 600.
Going into the FireKeepers Casino 400 in Michigan, it looked as if Elliott still had a shot at making the playoffs on points, as he was only 40 points from the cutoff. That all changed on Lap 36 of the race when he blew a tire and crashed.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) August 6, 2023
With only three races left until the playoffs, Elliott finds himself in a must-win situation.
Fox Sports' Bob Pockrass asked Elliott what his options are to make playoffs. Elliott had a simple answer: that he must find a way to win.
Chase Elliott on his prospects of winning one of the three final regular-season races: ?It?s the only option.? pic.twitter.com/mrX9It6qqm
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) August 6, 2023
"It's the only option," Elliott said. "We have to win."
There hasn't been a lack of trying by the Hendrick Motorsports driver, as he has been mainly consistent with his finishes since returning from the injury. But even with that, missing Gateway because of the suspension likely ruined any confidence or momentum the driver had gained from three top 10 finishes in his first four races after returning from injury.
Elliott has three races left to try to make something happen. His seven career road course wins might be in his favor, but the next race is at the Indianapolis Road Course. That race has been nothing less than a train wreck of events and has pretty much been an underdog type of race.
His best chance at finally ending his winning drought could be at Watkins Glen. Elliott has had his back up against the wall in the past and has found a way to surprise.
The odds may be against him, but the 2020 champion won't back away from what he has to do. He's had speed, as he has qualified inside the top 10 in the last two races. Obviously, he needs lady luck to show up soon.
The NASCAR playoffs will be quite interesting if the sport's most popular driver isn't one of the 16 drivers in the hunt for the championship.
Elliott's drought is starting to feel like that of his buddy Ryan Blaney. Blaney was able to snap that drought earlier this season. It will be a tough challenge for the No. 9 team, as they have struggled to have speed all season and are looking like the worst of Hendrick Motorsports' four-car team.
His goal all along since returning from his injury was to win races, and he hasn't forgotten that, he told reporters after getting released from the care center.
"I told y'all that the week I got back," Elliott said. "Nothing's changed."
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