Last season, Chase Elliott didn’t enter the playoffs as the favorite to win the NASCAR Cup Series championship. But when the dust settled, it was the second-generation driver who came out on top, thanks to a pair of clutch victories in the final two races, respectively. As the playoffs begin on Sunday at Darlington Raceway, Chase — who is NASCAR’s most popular driver and the son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott — will be looking to become the first driver to earn back-to-back championships since Jimmie Johnson captured the last of his record-breaking five consecutive championships in 2010.
While Elliott understands that recent history is not on his side, he also knows that he and his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports team led by veteran crew chief Alan Gustafson have shown flashes of brilliance this season despite not being as strong overall as teammate Kyle Larson and a couple of others. Much like 2020, Elliott’s championship bid is going to hinge largely on whether it all comes together at the right time.
“I feel like it’s going to take the same thing that it did last year,” said Elliott, who won twice in the regular season and begins the playoffs seeded fifth out of 16 championship-eligible drivers. “We’ll aim to just execute a really solid 10 weeks and try to be at our very best during the most important part of the year. We’ll see how it stacks up. It’s hard to time those things up, but we’ll try our best to do that.”