Elliott gunning for personal improvements to finish the season

Chase Elliott does not have a chance to win the NASCAR Cup Series driver championship, but the mentality it takes to compete for one won’t change as the No. 9 Chevrolet is still in a championship hunt.

Elliott needed to win to get into the 16-driver postseason, which he failed to do last weekend in Daytona. A champion from 2020, it’s the first time Elliott has not been in the postseason, but it’s been an unexpected season from the start. He broke his leg in a snowboarding incident in early March, which resulted in him missing six weeks, and was suspended for one week in June after hooking Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600.

The car, of course, continued to race in Elliott’s absence. Through his performance when behind the wheel and the helpful efforts of substitutes Josh Berry and Corey Lajoie, the No. 9 car qualified for the owner’s playoff.


It is through the owner’s point standings that teams are paid — that’s what the charter system is tied to. While Elliott has nothing to personally race for over the next two months, he and his team can’t change direction.

“It’s a tough balance with the car still being in the (owners) deal,” Elliott said Saturday at Darlington Raceway. “I would love to just completely take a reset and try really hard to just do things way different, and I still am going to try and do some of that, but it is a fine line because the car is still in. We still have to go perform at a high level.

“It’s a tough balance, but there are definitely habits I would like to break. There are some things I want to do better, and these next 10 weeks are a great opportunity for me to do that. But it still has meaning, so [I’m] currently trying to find that balance.”

Missing the playoffs, while disappointing, didn’t change anything for Elliott. There was no release of tension after chasing the postseason or any need to take personal time to decompress. He was adamant the pressure to perform during a season doesn’t change just because of his position.

“I’m really still treating it like we’re in the deal because the car is,” Elliott said. “We have to go and bring your best every week to advance it through the rounds.”

Elliott has run 19 of the season’s 26 races with 10 top-10 finishes, but the team has three DNFs, and Elliot has led an uncharacteristically small 41 laps.

“I want to be better,” he said. “I want to improve. There are just areas that I don’t feel like I’m doing a great job in, and I want to make that better. All I care about is improving.”

The former champ is putting it squarely on his own shoulders. Even if the No. 9 team would have been able to completely reset as he would have wanted, Elliott said the things he would want to do differently have nothing to do with the performance of his car.

“To be frank, and I don’t just say this, but I really don’t think the cars are the problem,” Elliott said. “I think I need to be better. You look at how William [Byron] and Kyle [Larson], and Alex [Bowman] have run throughout different points of the season — I just don’t think that’s an excuse. That’s just not how I work.

“I think I can be better, and I think can do more to extract pace out of our car, and that’s what I’m going to work on.”

Story originally appeared on Racer