Chase Elliott is the new NASCAR Cup Series road-course ace as winner of the four most recent points-paying road-course races, dating back to 2019. He’ll begin his quest to extend that string of road course wins and move one race closer to Jeff Gordon’s record six-straight from the pole Sunday in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 on the Daytona International Speedway road course.
“There’s quite a few similarities [between Elliott and Gordon’s road-course racing styles],” Elliott’s crew chief Alan Gustafson said. “I’ve seen this with all the good road racers I’ve worked with, and I’ve been fortunate to be around quite a few; it’s all slowed down for them. There’s so much going on road courses, between shifting, braking, turning, corners and handling in the corners. When you work with guys that are really good and successful, the level of detail they can describe and how they know what’s going on with the car and how it all just slows down for them. You see that from Chase, for sure, and I certainly saw that from Jeff.”
Elliott’s winning streak includes a race at the Daytona road course last season. He finished second in the Busch Clash exhibition race on the Daytona road course on Feb. 9.
Recently minted Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell will start next to Elliott on the front row.
“We feel really optimistic and confident,” McDowell said. “We had a top-five car most of the day last year. Drew [Blickensderfer, crew chief] and I went for it near the end with taking tires, but we didn’t get a late race caution, so the strategy didn’t work like we wanted.”
McDowell finished 10th in last year’s race at the DIS road course.
“Even without the Daytona 500 win, we would still feel confident coming back this weekend,” McDowell said. “We have really worked hard on our road-course program this offseason and we are getting better. It’s another good opportunity for us.”
With no qualifying for most races on the 2021 Cup Series schedule, including Sunday’s race, the race field for the Daytona road-course race was set by a formula NASCAR adopted late last season that includes previous race finishing order and fastest laps and car owner points. Elliott finished second to McDowell in the Daytona 500, the only points-paying race of 2021, so far. He is fourth in driver points, and his #9 Hendrick Motorsports team is fourth in the owner standings.
Austin Dillon and Denny Hamlin will start in row two on Sunday, while Kevin Harvick and Ryan Preece line up in row three. Other top-10 starters include Corey LaJoie in seventh, Kyle Larson in eighth, Ross Chastain ninth and Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. in 10th.