The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs kick off this weekend at historic Darlington Raceway. For the fifth consecutive year, Chase Elliott is officially part of the playoff contenders. In 2016, he became the youngest driver to make his first playoff start at 20 years, 9 months, 21 days, and last season he advanced all the way to the Round of 8 for the third consecutive year. Elliott’s average finish in the playoffs (13.0) is the second highest of the 2020 field of drivers, behind only Kevin Harvick. In his 40 playoff starts, he has garnered three wins (Dover 2018, Kansas 2018 and Charlotte 2019), 15 top-five finishes, 22 top-10s and 746 laps led.
THROUGH 26: As the regular season came to a close, Elliott continued to stack up career bests in runner-up results (three), top-five finishes (10), top-10s (15) stage points (200) and stage wins (six). Through 26 races, his two wins are tied for a personal best and his 530 laps led are his second most.
NAPA THROWBACK: NAPA AUTO PARTS will serve as the primary sponsor for Sunday’s Southern 500 at Darlington. In February, it was announced that NAPA AUTO PARTS and Hendrick Motorsports will continue their partnership for another two seasons. NAPA will remain a primary sponsor of Elliott and the No. 9 team through 2022. Click here to read the full release.
FOR 7X: In August, it was revealed that Elliott and Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Alex Bowman would pay homage to seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson with special paint schemes at Darlington Raceway. Elliott’s No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE is a throwback to Johnson’s championship-winning 2009 season. Check out the scheme here.
UNDER THE LIGHTS: Elliott continued his night race success on Saturday, collecting a second-place finish at the NASCAR Cup Series regular season finale at Daytona International Speedway. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native has one win (Charlotte), three runner-up finishes and five top-fives in the last six points-paying night races. Elliott also collected a victory under the lights in the 2020 NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway in July.
LOOKING BACK: Elliott and the NAPA AUTO PARTS team overcame a mid-race speeding penalty to finish fourth in the NASCAR Cup Series return at Darlington Raceway on May 17. It marked a career-best finish for the driver at the track dubbed “Too Tough to Tame.” In the May 20 race at the track, Elliott led 28 laps and was in position to win during the closing laps but was spun late by Kyle Busch and relegated to a 38th-place finish.
‘TOO TOUGH TO TAME’ STATS: Elliott is set to make his eighth NASCAR Cup Series start at Darlington Raceway this weekend. In his previous races at the 1.366-mile track, he has two top-five finishes and three top-10s. Elliott also has three NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at the South Carolina venue, where he won in his 2014 track debut. He is one of only four drivers to win at Darlington in their first race there.
GUSTAFSON AT DARLINGTON: No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson has called 17 Cup Series races at Darlington. Leading five different drivers, he’s collected one win, four top-five results and seven top-10s. Gustafson’s Darlington win came in 2009 with veteran Mark Martin, the second-oldest driver (50 years, 4 months) to win at the track “Too Tough To Tame.”
GUSTAFSON’S PLAYOFF RECORD: Gustafson has the second-most playoff appearances by a crew chief (13), behind only fellow Hendrick Motorsports crew chief Chad Knaus (17). The 45-year-old race caller is also tied for the second-most wins in playoff races with nine.
PIT POWER: As the NASCAR Cup Series kicks off its 2020 playoffs, the No. 9 team owns the third-best average time for four-tire pit stops at 13.96 seconds through 26 races. The team is comprised of jackman T.J. Semke, gasman John Gianninoto, tire carrier Jared Erspamer and tire changers Chad Avrit and Nick O’Dell.
Driver Chase Elliott on heading back to the playoffs:
“I am looking forward to the playoffs. I think these last 10 races are going to be super interesting and I look forward to the challenges myself and the NAPA team have ahead of us. It’s going to be a tough 10 for sure. We will have to bring our best to compete and I think we can do that. We just have to be consistent and be up front every week.”
Elliott on the throwback schemes for Darlington:
“I’m really excited about Darlington this year. It’s a really cool deal that we can honor Jimmie (Johnson) this weekend. He has had such an unreal career and been successful for so long. I am proud to call Jimmie a friend. He really is a hero of mine and had a tremendous impact on me. I am really looking forward to getting to the track and showing off our NAPA throwback to his 2009 championship season.”