MARTINSVILLE, Va. â There is being behind the 8 ball and then there is the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro of Chase Elliott.
Elliott, who came into the Round of 8 opener at Martinsville Speedway six points behind Joey Logano for the final Championship 4 spot, lost a motor in the first few minutes of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series first practice. Due to an engine change, Elliott will have to start from the rear of the field for Sundayâs First Data 500 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
âIt is what it is at this pointâ Elliott said. âI think to keep things simple for us, weâve got to try to win. If youâre not in a position to win, get as many points as possible. I just think that keeps things simple for you.â
The mindset may be simple, but the execution has proven to be far from it. Martinsville has seen only one winner in its 70-plus years start outside of the top 25. That came in 2002 when Kurt Busch won from the 36th starting spot driving for Jack Roush.
Martinsville is a bullring. The close confines of the Virginia short track can compound problems, and one mistake can bury you laps down to the leader.
âEvery race has a little bit of a wild card aspect,â Elliott said. âI mean who knows how restarts are going to go or if you are going to get some damage, have a fender rub or crash. I do think the people who always run good here are always going to be good, and I think they are going to be good here this weekend and if you can outrun those guys you probably have a shot to win.â
Those guys are Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick. They have all won at Martinsville. Truex has been close and Blaney is solid here, too. The task may be a tall one, but despite the long odds, Chaseâs numbers at the paperclip have been good as of late. Four out of his last five finishes have been top 10s.