Fort Worth, TX – A rare but true stat for qualifying in 2017 at the Texas Motor Speedway – Chase Elliott never made a qualifying attempt. Elliott’s No. 24 Chevrolet failed to make it through inspection in each of the two annual Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series appearances at the North Texas track, meaning in each of the two races, the Hendrick Motorsports driver will have to come from the back.
But, the bigger of the two was certainly this weekend’s playoff race.
Elliott, is currently 26 points behind the cutoff spot for the fourth and final transfer position to the Championship 4 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in eighth place in the Cup standings. But, if Denny Hamlin never punted him from the lead with three laps left in last weekend’s Cup race at Martinsville, he wouldn’t have to worry about Friday’s infraction because he would have already secured a spot at Homestead by virtue of his first career Cup win last Sunday.
Now, he’s going to have to come from the back, 34th in fact, in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 (2 p.m. ET/NBCSN/PRN) and have to make up a ton of ground.
Elliott, needs all the stage points he can get. Being 26 markers back is a lot to make up without winning a race over the next two weeks. With the Georgia native having zero career Cup wins, we can’t all the sudden assume he’s going to make a trip to victory lane this weekend or next. Mix that with most of the playoff contenders left starting up front, and Elliott has a ton of work to do.
With the top 10 getting points in each of the first two stages, it looks like at the moment that the other seven playoff eligible drivers are in position to get stage points in the first stage. Elliott, has to make up at least 23 spots and only have 85 laps to do so on Sunday. That’s why his car failing to get through inspection is a big story.
Elliott was one of seven cars to fail prequalifying tech, including Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth.
Elliott, now says this makes Sunday’s race as a must win situation.
“As you all know, qualifying well is important for stage points so I think for us now it puts the emphasis on having to compete for a win,’’ Elliott said. “It keeps it simple. [April winner] Jimmie [Johnson] did it in the spring and I think if we have our car driving good tomorrow afternoon, it’s definitely doable.’’