Chase Elliott had the first win of his career within his grasp. And then Kyle Busch stole it away.
Elliott led for 137 laps at the Monster Mile on Sunday, but Busch passed him with two laps remaining for his second straight victory. Elliott was understandably angry and dejected after the race, and he was down on himself after Busch passed him for the win.
Elliott did have the support of two of the greatest drivers in the history of NASCAR following the race. His teammate, Jimmie Johnson, and the man who made Elliott’s 24 car famous, Jeff Gordon, both offered words of encouragement for the 21-year-old Elliott.
“I knew I couldn’t say anything to make it better, but I felt like just standing there was maybe helpful since I know him so well,” Johnson said later via NASCAR.com. “Maybe let him get a few cuss words out before he had to actually pull it together and do a proper interview.
“I don’t think you can say anything now to make it better. As we get close to next weekend, the sting will subside and you can look for the silver lining. But right now, it’s gonna hurt, it’s gonna sting. We all know that 24 car is going to win a lot of races soon.”
Gordon said there are plenty of positives to take from the race for Elliott, and he understands the disappointment from Elliott.
“I’ll certainly tell him what a good job he did and try to cheer him up,” Gordon said. “It’s hard on everybody. His team has been very, very close and I know how badly he wants to win. That’s just passion. That’s what I like.”
The good news for Elliott is that he did move on to the Round of 12, and he has three more chances over the next three weeks to win his first career race.
A win in the next three weeks would automatically advance him into the Round of 8. If he can’t pick up a win, he’ll have to rely on points. Elliott is currently 10th in the points, so he will need to make improvements over the next few races if he wants to make the next cut.