Chase Elliott is a rookie in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. But he didn't drive like one Sunday in the Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, running in the top 10 all day en route to an eighth-place finish.
It was the second time in four races to start his inaugural Cup season that he had finished eighth. He also finished eighth at Atlanta in the season's second race.
But after crashing and finishing 38th in the 39-car field a week earlier at Las Vegas, Elliott was especially pleased with this eighth-place run.
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"I thought it was an improvement all day," Elliott said. "First off, my guys have been bringing such fast race cars to the racetrack every week since Daytona, and I haven't been doing a very good job of getting the finishes that they deserve.
"I'm just happy today that we could finally finish one of these things and get a solid top-10 finish."
Elliott credited crew chief Alan Gustafson and his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports pit crew with helping him make gains on the rest of the field throughout Sunday's race.
"I felt like we made gains throughout the day," he said. "The guys did a great job on pit road picking up spot there. Alan made good adjustments and I gave up a couple spots on that last restart, but I was proud of the effort and hopefully we can take it and try to get a little better in Fontana (next Sunday)."
Then Elliott gave what could be considered a typical rookie response when asked if Sunday's finish now made the 1-mile PIR track one of his favorites. The 20-year-old son of NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Bill Elliott admitted he hasn't been around long enough yet to have any favorites.
"I don't love or hate any racetrack," Elliott said. "It's a boring answer, but I don't pick favorites. Got to go to whatever one is next, so it really doesn't matter what I think about it."