AVONDALE, AZ - MARCH 18: Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet, talks with Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Chevrolet, in the garage during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Camping World 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 18, 2017 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Rising star said he learned the "hard way" after coming up short several times in 2017


Chase Elliott came so close to winning his first career Cup Series race on several different occasions in 2017. He finished as the runner-up in five different races, including in the penultimate race of the year at Phoenix.

Had Elliott won that race, he would've raced for a championship at Homestead. Instead, he came up just short, which summed up his entire season.

Elliott told NASCAR.com he learned a lot from those close calls -- even though he had to learn the hard way.

"Absolutely," Elliott said. "Learning the hard way for sure, but you definitely do learn things from those situations. I definitely have."


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Elliott had 10 top-5 finishes in his 2016 Rookie of the Year season, and he followed that up with 12 top-5 finishes in 2017.

He qualified for the playoffs both seasons, and he finished fifth in 2017. He was so close to making the Championship 4, and it's possible that his collision with Denny Hamlin -- or, more accurately, Hamlin's collision with Elliott -- kept the No. 24 out of championship contention.

Hamlin wrecked Elliott at Martinsville, and Elliott had an opportunity to win that race, Elliott later retaliated and ended Hamlin's chances later in the postseason.


Elliott said while those runner-up finishes aren't ideal, he feels like learned from them and they'll help him be a better driver in future.

"A lot of those situations were very different from one another," Elliott said. "I think back to some of the races and the races I was more disappointed in - being in the lead in some of those situations and losing it in the closing laps. Others being kind of on offense in the closing laps and being able to set to second (place).

"They're all different and I think you can learn from each one of them. I definitely think I have."

Once Elliott wins his first race, it's probably safe to assume many more wins will follow it. He nearly made the Championship 4 without winning a race last year, and he has to be considered among the favorites to contend for a title in 2018.