Chase Elliott hopes there's no place like home on Sunday

BRISTOL, Tenn.—NASCAR Cup champion Chase Elliott is still searching for his first win in 2021—and his first win at his home track, Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Elliott will have another opportunity this weekend when he rolls off fifth at the Hampton, Ga., track.

Although the second-generation racer started his career in the Legends Series at AMS, he has never won a race in any of NASCAR’s top three tours on the 1.54-mile tri-oval.

“I would love to have a win at Atlanta,” Elliott said. “I feel like anybody’s home track, you want to have a win at, for sure, if you can get it. 

“But like I’ve said in the past, I’m not super picky when it comes to wins. I’m good with wherever. They’re too hard to win. Atlanta would be great. I would love to get it done one day and be able to have one there, for sure.”

Still, Elliott leads all current drivers with an average finish of 10th at the intermediate track. His best result was fifth in 2017. But with a racing surface that hasn't been repaved since 1997, Atlanta offers a variety of challenges.

“Atlanta is tough,” Elliott said. “It’s an old surface, for sure, which I think makes it fun for the drivers. I feel like a lot of people enjoy going there because of that. But, overall for us, it’s been super hit or miss, and I really don’t know why. We’ve gone there and we’ve had some really good runs; a couple of days that I thought we were capable of winning. And then we’ve been there and just been way out to lunch. 

“So, I’m not exactly sure what that is all the time. Obviously, car configuration, rules, different packages and all that stuff plays a role in it. Hopefully, this week we can be more on the hit side and execute a good race. Obviously, you have to have things going well for you to have a shot to win anywhere, but definitely have to execute a good race to put yourself in position to win. So, hopefully, we can check both of those boxes.”

Clearly, Hendrick Motorsports is enjoying a resurgence of late. Elliott closed out the 2020 season by winning the final two races and the title. Two of his teammates—William Byron and Kyle Larson—have won this season at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway, respectively. 

“I think it’s really a testament to everybody at the shop putting in a lot of effort; each individual team putting in a lot of effort to go and be the best we can, and that’s really what it comes down to,” Elliott said. “I don’t think any of the drivers are trying any harder than we have in the past. I think it’s just a really nice effort from the top to the bottom of trying to take four fast race cars to the track every weekend. 

“I do feel like everybody is, I don’t want to say sharing information because we’ve always done that, but just working together a little more from all aspects. You might have some people who work really good together sometimes and other people don’t.  Where I feel like, right now, it’s super fluid, and everybody’s open about anything and everything, and I feel like it’s showing on track. But beyond that, I really feel it’s fundamental upgrades, things that are important on track, being improved upon in the shop and I think each car is benefitting from it.”

In the off-season, Elliott expanded his horizons by racing midgets on dirt. In addition to the Chili Bowl Nationals, he competed in the USAC season opener at Bubba Raceway Park. In preparation for the Food City Dirt Race next weekend, the 25-year-old flexed his muscles at the Bristol Dirt Nationals in a Super Late Model.

“I would have loved to have gotten in a truck,” Elliott said. “It didn’t work out, but I think going and doing this will help me just be able to visualize things, understand the racetrack a little more and just kind of get a little bit of a feel for what dirt is like there at Bristol before we just show up. I’m excited about it; I haven’t been in a late model in a long time. I’m not really sure what to expect, but looking forward to trying.”

With 11 laps remaining in Friday’s A-Main, Elliott was collected on the frontstretch while running 10th. He finished 17th. Chris Ferguson won the feature. Larson finished second. 

Still, Elliott enjoys testing himself in different vehicles at different venues.

“Yeah, I’ve had a lot of fun with it,” Elliott said. “I’m not very good at it, I don’t think, but I’m looking forward to trying to get better. More than anything, I enjoy the challenge of it and it’s just a discipline that I haven’t spent much time trying to work on my craft in and try to get better at. The fact that it is something new intrigues me, has my attention and I want to get better at it. I think I can get better at it and I think that’s where I have some motivation and drive to want to do more of it. 

“I don’t feel like I have learned all the things I need to learn to be the best I can at it. and I think I can do better. So, that’s why I want to keep going and trying.”

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