By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
The choose rule helped Chase Elliott take a shot at an elusive victory at Michigan International Speedway in the FireKeepers Casino 400.
The NASCAR Cup Series veteran chose to restart on the inside during the sixth caution of the day. On the restart, Elliott cleared Kevin Harvick to take the lead with 15 laps to go. The Hendrick Motorsports driver kept Harvick at bay over the course of the next five laps. Another caution forced Elliott to choose once again.
The driver of the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE chose the preferred outside lane. On the restart, Harvick and Kyle Busch took Elliott three-wide in turn one. As Elliott fell back, Harvick loosened Busch’s car, squashing his momentum. The Chevy Racing driver pounced to take second before another caution waved.
For the rest of the race, Elliott continued to choose the outside lane, behind Harvick. Competition from Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. swept the Hendrick driver back. Out of the draft, Elliott fell to seventh when the checkered flag waved.
“We had a strong restart there at the end of the race from the inside lane,” explained Elliott. “When that next caution came out, I just didn’t see it playing out the same way twice, so I chose to go to outside lane. Our NAPA Chevrolet was just tight all day and the team worked hard to try and get it dialed in – they had a solid day on pit road. I think we learned a few things today that we can hopefully use tomorrow.”
Prior to the late-race gamble with the choose rule, Elliott ran just inside the top-10 for most of the race. He started eighth following the random draw for the starting grid and finished the first stage in seventh. Elliott was 11th at the end of the second stage.
Michigan marked the first points-paying race that the choose rule was in effect for the Cup Series. The only prior usage in the Cup Series was at Bristol Motor Speedway for the All-Star Race.
The seventh-place finish is the 11th top-10 finish for Elliott this season. It is also the 85th of his Cup Series career. For Elliott, the top-10 is his seventh at Michigan in eight starts.
Elliott remains fifth in the points standings, 170 behind leader Harvick. He is locked into the playoffs via his win at Charlotte Motor Speedway earlier this season.
Following a 20-car invert, Elliott will start the Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan in 14th.