With Career-Best Sonoma Finish, Chase Elliott is learning to Love Road Course Racing

Chase Elliott, the driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, passes Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet, in turn four during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 24, 2018, in Sonoma, California. Photo – Robert Reiners/Getty Images

SONOMA, Calif. – Chase Elliott made a major move in Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.

No, Elliott didn’t win the race, but his fourth-place finish was a career best in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in five starts on road courses.

While other contending drivers – including top-three finishers Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer – came to pit road before the ends of the first two stages to set up superior track position, Elliott stayed out through the green/checkered flags to collect stage points, finish fourth in Stage 1 and second in Stage 2.

In the final stage, however, he overcame the disadvantaged track position to run fourth behind the three strongest cars in the race. And by scoring 49 points on Sunday, seven more than any other driver and nine more than race winner Truex, Elliott solidified his 13th-place position in the series standings.

More than anything, Elliott has begun to enjoy road course racing.

“It was a lot more fun, this trip out here, than it was the last two times,” said Elliott, who finished 21st and eighth, respectively, in his first two Sonoma races. “I made a lot of gains, personally, I think, for me at this track. It’s been one of my worst. To come here and have pace on Friday and qualify good on Saturday, and to have pace today, it was just a lot more fun.

“I appreciate everyone on my NAPA team working hard this weekend. We had a fast Chevrolet all three days. And that’s nice to show up and get rhythm. We kind of had to pick our battles today. We elected to get some stage points and that set us back a little for that last stage, but I don’t think we had the pace that the leaders had. So it was a good finish for me, and we’re looking forward to the next road race.”