Elliott Looking For Good Luck In Atlanta Home Stand

Chase Elliott was presented with a Georgia Bulldogs football jersey Friday afternoon at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Photo by Brandon Reed

After a hard outing a week ago at Daytona International Speedway, Chase Elliott comes into his home track of Atlanta Motor Speedway hoping for a little luck to turn his season in the right direction early on.

And one more “lucky charm” might do the trick for the Dawsonville, Georgia native, as he was presented with a Jersey from the University of Georgia Bulldogs football team, complete with Elliott’s name and No. 9, his car number, Friday afternoon.

“I’m a big Georgia (Bulldogs) fan,” Elliott said. “Great to see.”

Elliott comes into Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 off of a 33rd place finish at Daytona after a hard crash while running second just after the halfway point.

Elliott said he was frustrated after the Daytona crash.

“I think everybody was frustrated,” he said. “We just got past the halfway point and half the field got crashed in one wreck and unfortunately, I was the guy that was ahead of the rest of them. So, I can definitely take some blame for it. I think it’s so circumstantial though, and I think it’s so hard to point fingers in situations. Everybody is trying to take advantage of situations and if you don’t take advantage of a situation, you get taken advantage of by somebody else.

“I think everybody was being aggressive. I certainly was, but I know that the whole field was all day. And, you have to kind of set that precedent because if you let a guy run over you or make a move on you, he’s going to count on that every time. So, I just think you have to do what you think is right, go with your gut, and it didn’t work out last weekend. But, again, I think it’s hard to point fingers in an incident like that.”

But after the hard finish in the 500, a home stand at Atlanta could be just the tonic that Elliott needs.

“This is a track where you can have your car driving good and you might be able to make up a deficit that you might be fighting somewhere else or somebody have an advantage over you,” he said. “I just think having the ability to go out and practice and your feedback is worth a little more here. I think that a lot of guys feel that way. As you run a race, how you drive your car at the first half of the run can affect how your performance is going to be in the second half of the run. In a lot of places, that’s not the case either.

“So, it’s just a fun place to come. I think anywhere that you run three or four laps and the lap times have fallen off significantly like they are here all the time, I think that makes it fun. It makes it fun from a strategy stand point, it makes it fun for the racers.”

After Busy Week, Wallace, Jr. Ready For Atlanta Challenge

To say the week after the Daytona 500 has been a whirlwind for Darrell Wallace, Jr. might be the understatement of the year.

After piloting the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevy to a second place finish in the “Great American Race” in his first career start in the event, Wallace, Jr. has been the focus of a lot of attention over the past five days.

“Oh, it’s been a hell of a week, man, no kidding,” Wallace, Jr. said. “But, it wasn’t too busy, though. After the 500 I figured I’d be slammed all the way up until here, but it wasn’t too bad.”

Wallace, the first African-American driver to compete full time on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series since Wendell Scott in 1970, said that despite the strong start at Daytona, the team’s expectations are staying down to earth.

“No, being able to talk to Richard (Petty) last night, we had a Coke dinner last night which went really great, they are great partners to the sport. And I asked what the expectations are for this year. I wanted to see what his take was and he says looking back on last year, they knew where they stood, 15th to 20th more so on the back side of that. And he wants to improve to a top 8 to a top 12 team. And I’m like, okay, that’s right in the ballpark I was saying. I was saying top 10 to top 15, so he says yes there are going to be days where we are better than that, and there’s going to be days when we’re worse than that. But, we all have to keep in once piece and bring it home and let us work on it and not get behind. Having those few moments with him, a 45-minute car (ride) with him there was a lot said, but I asked him that specific question.”

Wallace, Jr. said moving the No. 43 into a top ten contender would be an effort between both driver and team.

“I’ll have to put that car in position and put us there in that spot, but we also have to have the equipment and the right adjustments to be able to do that,” he said. No, this is a team sport. There’s no ‘I’ in any of the drivers in this field. It all relies on team work. We could be running fifth all day and we come down pit road for the last stop and the pit crew messes up, then we all go down and not just them. We’ll have to just minimize mistakes and not slide through the box or whatever it is.

“So, we’ve all got to make sure we’re all pulling in the same direction. That’s what’s going to keep us ahead of the ball. As soon as we start getting in the opposite direction, that’s when we start getting behind and the results will start to show. So, I have a great team. I have no worries about what’s going to happen. They’re all prepared and we’ll be ready.”

Blaney Leads MENCS Points Entering Atlanta

Ryan Blaney came oh-so-close to winning last Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Driving the new No. 12 Ford for Team Penske, Blaney led five times for 118 laps, more than any other driver.

But after losing the lead on a late restart and being involved in one of the late cautions in the 200 lap race, Blaney had to settle for a seventh place finish in the end.

But the bonus prize out of it is that he comes into Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend as the points leader in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Not that he has noticed, mind you.

“I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t even looked at the points,” he said Friday. “If you wouldn’t have told me that, I wouldn’t even have known I was the points leader. It’s not somewhere you’re gonna be sitting for 37 weeks. You just try to go out there and do the best you can. We haven’t really raced yet. We haven’t gone to a track where you’re working on your car throughout practice to try to get it to handle and handle on long runs. At Daytona you do a little bit of that, but it’s not like here or Vegas or Phoenix, so I haven’t even paid attention to that. You just try to focus on how you can go to Atlanta and have a good run, and go try to win the race.”

Despite missing the win after dominating at Daytona, he said he really didn’t know how he felt after the 500.

“I was in kind of a weird mood Sunday and Monday and I wasn’t really distraught or nothing, but I wasn’t really happy or excited. I was almost in kind of a weird, peaceful mood, which was strange. I knew we went out and we did the best that we could and it just didn’t work out for us and what are you gonna do? You can’t complain too much about that. We had the lead and we lost on the restart and we actually got it back and get shuffled back. It was so hard to block as the leader and it was nuts after that 10 to go caution. I knew it was gonna get nuts, but I wasn’t really disappointed.

“Yah, you lead a bunch of the race and you lose out on the 500, but I don’t care about leading 100-and-some laps, I’d rather lead one and you can’t be too down about it. You just move on and you try to learn from your mistakes and try to figure out what you can do a little bit better, but I wasn’t really that distraught or nothing. I was just in a weird mood, but it wasn’t bad.”

Blaney said this past week has been pretty relaxed after the hustle and bustle of SpeedWeeks.

“We didn’t really do much. You just do your typical debriefs, but it’s nice to be home after 10 days of being in Daytona, and the weather was pretty nice in North Carolina too, which was that much better. I’m excited to get back to the race track. It’s always nice to have a little bit of down time from the 10 days you’re down in Daytona, but you’re ready to get back to the race track and this place is awesome. We’re slipping and sliding and it’s just a fun place to come. We struggled a little bit today in qualifying trim, but hopefully we can get a little bit better, but it’s nice to be back and nice to get the season started to roll.”


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