With only a small points cushion to avoid elimination in the Round 2 finale on Sunday, a third consecutive win at the Roval for Elliott would again be a crucial and well-timed component in a championship run.
Elliott, whose two prior wins this season have both come on road courses, doesn’t see any reason why he and his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports team contend for the victory.
“I think we can go and have a shot at doing that. I think we can go and get stage points and I think we can vie for the win, as well. I don’t see why all that stuff is not achievable. I think it’s very much within reach,” Elliott said.
“We have to go perform at a high level, execute a solid race, and I think if we do our part and do all the things I know we are capable of, I think we can check all the boxes.
“So, that’s what I’m going for.”
Elliott, 25, enters Sunday’s race ranked seventh among the 12 remaining playoff drivers. He and Kyle Busch are both nine points above the cutoff line. Following Sunday’s race, the four lowest drivers in points without a win will be eliminated from further title contention.
All four Hendrick technically could still fail to advance with Kyle Larson in the best position, 22 points above the cutoff line.
Both William Byron and Alex Bowman would need to win the race to make it to the next round, so an all-Hendrick Championship 4 appears out of the question this season.
Last season, Elliott used his victory at the Roval to secure his spot in the semifinal round of the playoffs, then his victory at Martinsville, Va., locked him in the championship race at Phoenix, which he also won to secure his first series title.
The nine-point cushion is not a lot to work with on a track which tends to produce chaotic situations.
With only driver – Denny Hamlin – currently locked into the semifinal round (by virtue of his win at Las Vegas), that leaves 11 other drivers vying for a win with 11 different strategies on how to produce the best result.
“Stage points are going to be super valuable. We have to be aware of that. You also have to be aware of the guys who are kind of out of reach on making it in on points. They’re going to call a different race than the guys that need stage points,” Elliott said.
“Road courses typically lend to drivers and teams jumping stages to allow them better track position location for the following stage or the final stage. That’s going to be hard to do, frankly, for guys who need the points.
“So, you’re going to have different races being called, all kind of within one event.”
Elliott said Sunday’s do-or-die type situation for playoff drivers is one no one should take for granted.
“Like I always say, if you ever get to that last race, the cutoff race anyway, you better enjoy the moment,” he said. “You better like having your back against the wall, and have to perform, because if you ever want to win, that’s how it’s going to be.
“I’m looking forward to it and excited for the opportunity.”