It did not take long for one of the contenders in the NASCAR Playoffs to suffer a significant issue during preparation for the First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Chase Elliott just slipped into the ‘Round of 8’ with a late rally last weekend at the Kansas Speedway which ultimately placed the popular driver in the sixth spot in the current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings.
But after just five laps of practice on Saturday morning smoke and flames came belching from underneath the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet which caused the car to slow to a stop on the track with a trail of fluid having been left behind. The crew immediately went to work changing the power plant in the machine in the half-mile track’s garage area.
Elliott entered the weekend 22 points behind MENCS leader Kyle Busch and six points beneath the fourth place cutoff line. That final position is currently held by Joey Logano.
Elliott has had a degree of success at Martinsville with two top-5 finishes and four top-10 results in his eight starts on the paper-clip shaped track. Of course, Elliott was in contention for a win at this track in 2017 until he and Denny Hamlin tangled with less than five laps remaining in that event. After leading 127 laps, that crash resulted in a 27th place finish for the son of legendary driver Bill Elliott.
The engine change will cause Elliott to start at the rear of the field for Sunday’s race.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
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