Can Elliott Go Back-To-Back?

Chase Elliott

9 CHASE ELLIOTT

Age: 25 (Nov. 28, 1995)

Hometown: Dawsonville, Georgia

Resides: Dawsonville, Georgia

Crew Chief: Alan Gustafson

Standings: 1st

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No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, will be available to members of the media at Phoenix Raceway on Saturday, Nov. 6, following qualifying. To watch live, visit NASCAR.com/presspass.

MARTINSVILLE MANIA: Chase Elliott’s performance on Sunday in the penultimate 2021 event at Martinsville Speedway secured his spot in the Championship 4 race for the second consecutive season. After leading a race-high 289 laps, contact from a competitor sent the No. 9 Chevy spinning in turn three. During the resulting caution, the NAPA team made repairs to the left-rear fender damage. Elliott dropped to 21st when the race resumed and was able to make it back up to 16th before the checkered flag waved.

YOUNG GUN: Last season, Elliott became the third-youngest NASCAR Cup Series champion at 24 years, 11 months and 11 days and a title this season would make him the youngest driver to win multiple championships. On Nov. 8, 2014, at 18 years, 11 months and 11 days, Elliott became the youngest NASCAR Xfinity Series champion when he clinched the 2014 title a week early at Phoenix Raceway.

CHAMPIONSHIP RUN: This weekend, Elliott could bring home his second championship in only his sixth full-time season. He would become the 11th driver to win back-to-back championships and would be the first to do so in the elimination format. The title performance would also give crew chief Alan Gustafson his second Cup trophy in his 17th full-time season. Gustafson would be the 16th crew chief to win multiple championships.

CREW CHIEF CORNER: No. 9 crew chief Gustafson leads the Championship 4 crew chiefs with 33 career wins. His victories have come from four different drivers: Elliott (13), Jeff Gordon (11), Mark Martin (five) and Kyle Busch (four). Gustafson has won with more drivers than any other active crew chief. He and Elliott have accumulated their 13 wins in 211 races – the third-most wins by an active driver and crew chief pairing.

ENGINE, ENGINE NO. 9: This weekend, Elliott has the chance to give the No. 9 car number its third championship. In addition to Elliott’s 2020 championship, his father, Bill Elliott, also won the title in 1988 behind the wheel of the No. 9.

PLAYOFF PERFORMANCE: With only one race remaining in the 2021 season, Elliott has garnered two runner-up finishes, three top-five finishes, four top-10s and 521 laps led in the nine playoff races. He has also picked up 310 points and three stage wins in those nine events.

2021 SEASON RUNDOWN: As the series heads into the final race of the 2021 season, Elliott’s nine top-two finishes are the most he has collected in a single year. The driver of the No. 9’s 14 top-five finishes are tied for his most at the 35-race mark. In those 35 races, Elliott has also collected two wins, 20 top-10s, six stage wins and 858 laps led.

PHOENIX STATS: This Sunday, Elliott will make his 12th Cup Series start at Phoenix. In his previous 11 starts at the 1-mile oval, the driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE has led a total of 402 laps – the third-most laps led at a track for Elliott. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native has collected one win, four top-five finishes and seven top-10s.

LAST SEASON LOOKBACK: Last November at Phoenix, Elliott outran three of the best drivers in stock-car racing to earn his first NCS championship after a thrilling season finale. Elliott clinched the title after leading 153 laps, the third-most laps he has led in a race, en route to Hendrick Motorsports’ record-extending 13th championship.

GUSTAFSON AT PHOENIX: Gustafson will call his 34th Cup Series race at Phoenix on Sunday. In his previous 33 races there, he has collected four wins, 11 top-five results including two runner-up finishes, 22 top-10s and 833 laps led. Gustafson’s four wins come from four different drivers: Busch in 2005, Martin in 2009, Gordon in 2011 and Elliott in 2020. He worked with the oldest winner ever at Phoenix Raceway (Martin at 50 years, 3 months and 9 days) and the track’s youngest winner ever (Busch at 20 years, 6 months and 11 days).

NAPA KNOW HOW: Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE will don the familiar blue, white and yellow NAPA AUTO PARTS paint scheme in Sunday’s championship race at Phoenix Raceway. It will be the Atlanta-based company’s second time with a driver competing for the title in the season finale.

PIT ROAD PROWESS: The No. 9 team owns the second-best average time for four-tire pit stops at 13.37 seconds during the playoffs. The NAPA pit crew is comprised of jackman T.J. Semke, gasman John Gianninoto, tire carrier Jared Erspamer and tire changers Chad Avrit and Nick O’Dell.

CHAMPIONSHIP FOCUS: On Sunday, Hendrick Motorsports will field two championship contenders – Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson – in the title-deciding NASCAR Cup Series season finale at Phoenix Raceway. It will be the first time the team has placed two drivers in the Championship 4 since NASCAR went to its current playoff format in 2014. Hendrick Motorsports holds the all-time records for Cup Series championships (13) and different drivers to win a title (four). Jimmie Johnson (seven championships), Jeff Gordon (four), Elliott (2020) and Terry Labonte (1996) have all won Cup trophies for the organization.

BOWTIE 40TH: Chevrolet has secured the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series manufacturer championship, marking its milestone and record-extending 40th. With one race remaining in the season, Chevy teams have won 18 of 35 points-paying events. In 2021, Hendrick Motorsports has delivered 16 of the 18 Chevrolet victories (89%) and contributed 83% of the points toward the manufacturer title. Since Rick Hendrick founded the team in 1984, 279 of Chevy’s 551 wins (51%) have come from his stable.

IN THE DUST: Entering Sunday’s Cup Series season finale at Phoenix Raceway, Hendrick Motorsports holds the track records for wins (11), pole positions (12), top-five finishes (50), top-10s (92) and laps led (2,904). Elliott clinched the 2020 Cup Series championship with his win there last November.

GO TIME: Hendrick Motorsports has won five of the nine 2021 Cup Series playoff races – including each of the last four – and eight of 14 dating back to last year. It has recorded at least one playoff win in 17 straight seasons (since the playoffs began in 2004) and notched 52 combined wins in playoff races, which is the most. A Hendrick Motorsports driver has won in each of the last six playoff elimination races, including Elliott’s title-clinching performance at Phoenix in 2020.

STAGING AREA: With 27 stage wins thus far in 2021, Hendrick Motorsports is tied with Joe Gibbs Racing (2019) for the most ever in a single Cup Series season. The team will have an opportunity to break the record Sunday at Phoenix.

TOP-TWOS: With one race remaining, Hendrick Motorsports has recorded 32 top-two finishes in 2021, which is tied with JGR (2019) for the most in a single season in NASCAR’s modern era (since 1972). Hendrick Motorsports has swept the first and second positions in seven races this year, including a string of four straight 1-2 finishes.

YEAR TO REMEMBER: The 2021 season has been one of the most memorable in the history of Hendrick Motorsports. In May, the team finished 1-2-3-4 at Dover International Speedway, won Chevrolet’s milestone 800th race at Circuit of the Americas and at Charlotte Motor Speedway broke Petty Enterprises’ long-standing record for Cup Series wins. With one event remaining on the calendar, Hendrick Motorsports has recorded 16 points-paying victories, which is its second-most in a single season (18 in 2007). It became the only team since 1972 to win six consecutive points races – and seven overall including Larson’s non-points NASCAR All-Star Race victory. With its entire four-car stable contributing to the 2021 total, Hendrick Motorsports is the first team in Cup Series history with four race winners under the age of 30 in a single season.

Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on if there are lessons from last year’s championship run that he will carry with him this season: “I think a little bit of everything. We will look at obviously our car side of things from how we raced the last few years, not just that particular race last year. Then, obviously, the spring race in Phoenix – we have some things to look back at. So, I think we will definitely dive through every bit of that information that we have. I think from the mental side, having that experience of going and experiencing the emotions of the week and leading up to it and all those things, it is kind of nice to have been through that before. It didn’t really seem to matter last year so I don’t know that it really matters; I don’t know whether it really affects your performance or not, but there were things and experiences that I learned last year that I’ll try to carry forward to better myself and to better our team and that’s all you can do with that information.”

Elliott on being locked into the Championship 4: “Getting in that final four is really the goal every year. The goal is to go win the championship, so it’s just nice to have another shot. It wasn’t the exciting transfer walk-off type like it was last year but nonetheless, to have a shot to go race for to the championship is really all that matters to us right now. I would love to have won at Martinsville, but I feel like our teams in a good place, performing well over the last couple weeks so I am excited for the opportunity. That’s all I can ask for this time of year.”

Elliott on the No. 9 team dynamic: “I feel like we have a great team. I feel like our approach is very similar; I let him do his job and he lets me do my job. We don’t question it and I feel like it ends up being a really nice working relationship. Our team has grown and has changed a little bit over the course of my six years. I think that as you go, you evolve and you get to know people better, you start doing better. You start finding that little bit in each person that helps performance each week and it all adds up. So, we have a great group people. I am proud to have them and I am excited go to work this weekend.”

Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on competing for a championship against No. 5 team: “It makes it a lot of fun. It’s certainly more enjoyable for me and it gives you a little bit of comfort knowing that you have teammates who are going to be pushing the front and pushing forward to prove their cars, their pit crews, all of the above. It’s a fun time here and we are proud of everyone at Hendrick Motorsports and what they have been able to do in all phases of this organization. They are operating at a super high level. It’s a fun time and we certainly enjoy it.”

Gustafson on looking back at the 2020 championship nearly one year later: “To me, it’s much more about 2021 than 2020. I’ve just been focused on trying to get in a position where we can do that again. I really haven’t had a chance to reflect on last year much or really even think about it. We are just focused on this season and trying to get ourselves and our team in the best position we can for this weekend. Certainly, there’s some things we learned going through last year and this season so far that we can apply, but as far as anything else, it’s just been keeping our eyes forward. We are looking forward to getting to Phoenix.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

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