Motorsport News

Chase Elliott Still Searching for Momentum

#9: Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro

Hendrick Motorsports is off to a flying start in 2024.

William Byron and Kyle Larson combined won three of the first six NASCAR Cup Series races this season, including Byron’s triumph in the Daytona 500.

Alex Bowman, who has battled injuries over the last 18 months, has posted three top fives and looks closer to breaking a long winless spell.

Then there is Chase Elliott.

Elliott has been lost in the shuffle since this season began. It’s an unusual position for him to be in given his status as NASCAR’s most popular driver and perennial title contender. Elliott is still only one of two drivers in the current Hendrick squad to win a Cup Series championship and he is the only driver of the four who has reached the championship race more than twice.

The No. 9 should be every bit as fast as the other Hendrick cars. Yet it still feels like Elliott is missing something, something that has held his team back from finding the speed they had a few years ago.

To be clear, the Cup Series season is long and the No. 9 is not in dire straits.

Through the first six races, Elliott is ninth in the overall standings, 47 points behind leader Martin Truex Jr. in what is still a tight points race. You might even be surprised to learn that Elliott is just 10 points behind Byron. The No. 9 team could easily leapfrog the No. 24 at Richmond Raceway this weekend, where Byron only has two top 10s in 11 starts. If Elliott is off compared to his teammates, he is certainly not far behind.

The most significant thing that Elliott is missing is raw speed. Byron and Larson have had it since the beginning of last season, and Bowman appears to be making progress. Elliott, on the other hand, has gone backward in the speed department, especially since the 2022 playoffs. Recall how Elliott looked like the championship favorite during the 2022 regular season.

He took the points lead five races into the season, never relinquishing it until the playoffs began. He also won four races during the regular season (no one else won more than two) and began the postseason with a series-best 40 playoff points. In a season remembered for parity and surprises, Elliott still appeared to be a cut above the competition.

Yet once the postseason began, the No. 9 team found that all those playoff points were necessary just to stay in the game. Elliott either lacked the speed to contend for wins or had a problem that knocked him out of contention in the races where…

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