If Chase Elliott were to be placed in a do or die type scenario to save his NASCAR Cup Series life in terms of making it into the NASCAR Playoffs or not, Watkins Glen International would almost certainly be the track any fan of the popular driver would want for that race. And this weekend, that is pretty much the scenario at hand.
After missing six races due to an injury suffered as the result of a snowboarding accident and one event due to suspension, Elliott currently ranks 19th in the Cup Series standings 80 points behind Bubba Wallace, who is the lowest ranking driver who would make it into the Playoffs on points if the cut were to be made now.
Barring some sort of miracle and a bunch of stage points, there is essentially no hope of Elliott making the Playoffs based on his position in the standings.
Yes, there are two races remaining before the sixteen drivers who will compete for the championship are determined but one of those two contests will be held at the highly unpredictable Daytona International Speedway where big crashes and drafting have more to do with who wins than just about any other factor. Going into that race in a must-win scenario is not an enviable situation for any driver.
The road course located in upstate New York provides a much more predictable set of circumstances than Daytona. Drivers who have been good there in the past tend to be good there most of the time. And for Elliott, there is no track used by NASCAR more than three times in which he has a better record. The driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet has scored two wins at Watkins Glen and has an average finish of 5.7 over the course of his career.
The 27-year-old driver’s first NASCAR Cup Series victory came at WGI.
It isn’t just Watkins Glen where the 2020 NASCAR champion has shown his prowess on road courses. Of his 18 career wins, seven have come on the tracks that feature both left and right hand turns. However, there is a bit of a dark side to the story of Elliott’s success on road courses. All of his wins on that type of track came with the previous generation of car.
The second generation star from Dawsonville, Georgia has not won on a road course event since the introduction of the current Next Gen machine. But take heart Elliott fans in the fact that your favorite pilot did finish a strong second to Michael McDowell last Sunday on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway so the speed certainly appears to be there.
Should he come through and actually make the Playoffs, this is a driver and team that have shown the ability to make a deep run. Elliott has gone to the Championship 4 race in each of the last three seasons with a chance to be crowned with that actually happening in 2020.
To make those Playoffs, though, a win at WGI is essential when past history is taken into consideration. The other option would be to win on a track such as Daytona where drivers have a statistically better chance of being involved in ‘The Big One’ than winning.
Chase Elliott has never won a points-paying race at Daytona so it is not the prefect place to hope for a do or die victory in order to keep his championship hopes alive. It could happen, but reality says that it all comes down to Watkins Glen.
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