Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – CONCORD, NC – Before he turns his attention to a 600-mile marathon at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday evening, Chase Elliott’s focus will be elsewhere.
Elliott’s former Hendrick Motorsports teammate, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, will take the green flag as a 46-year-old rookie in the Indianapolis 500 at 12:45 p.m. on Sunday.
“I’m super intrigued and I’m excited for him,” Elliott said before NASCAR Cup Series practice at Charlotte. “I think he has a legitimate shot at it, from what I’ve kind of kept up with. His performance at Texas (Motor Speedway, where Johnson finished sixth) I think impressed a lot of people. I wasn’t super surprised by that, just with as good as he is on ovals and how much oval experience that he has. So I think that’s really cool.
“Like I said, I feel like he’s got a shot at the win tomorrow. I’m going to try and keep up the best I can. I feel like our day is always getting kind of busy when that race is going on, or at least when it starts to wind down. It starts to get really good when we’re starting to do sponsor stuff. I’ll try to keep up with it. Hopefully he’s in the running and, if so, I might be late to one or two obligations if Jimmie is leading that thing coming down to the end.”
Not to throw cold water on Elliott’s expectations, but in 105 previous Indy 500s, only two drivers have won from 12th on the grid—Johnson’s starting spot.
And only 10 rookies have won the most prestigious IndyCar race. Alexander Rossi was the last to do so in 2016.
Ty Gibbs charges from the rear to take second on Saturday
Josh Berry may have won Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway by a wide margin, but then again, he had a massive head start on second-place finisher Ty Gibbs.
Berry started fourth in the Alsco Uniforms 300 at the 1.5-mile track. Gibbs, on the other hand, started at the rear of the field in a repaired No. 54 Toyota after hitting the wall in Friday’s practice and failing to make a qualifying run.
By the end of Stage 2, Gibbs had worked his way up to seventh, and though he was no match for the race winner, his second-place run was a triumph of sorts, given the adversity he faced.
“We were just a little slower than those guys, and I was too tight (in the) center (of the corners),” Gibbs said. “Our guys worked really hard overnight to get this thing ready, so I’m very thankful to my guys.
“Just need to be able to rotate the center of the corner. That’s where we were lacking the most and that’s where we got beat. But we held onto a second-place finish. We’ll take that – solid day.”
Solid, yes, but not satisfying.
“No, never satisfied unless you win, and you can make mistakes and win, too, but you have to fix those,” Gibbs said. “If not, then you shouldn’t be here.”