LOUDON, N.H. – Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Aaron’s Dream Machine/Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet, overcame an early race flat tire and broken sway bar arm to finish fifth in Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Elliott, 16, was as far back as 32nd when he aggressively drove his way through the field in the remaining 50 laps of the event to claim the fifth spot when the checkered flag waved.
Elliott now ranks fourth in the 2012 K&N Pro Series East championship standings, 13 points behind leader Brett Moffitt. The Saturday afternoon event will be broadcast on SPEED on Thursday, Sept. 27 at 3 p.m. ET.
Elliott started the 100-lap race in the fifth position, and early in the event, he reported to his team that his No. 9 Chevrolet had developed a tight-handling condition. By Lap 7, it was made clear why after crew chief Lance McGrew radioed to Elliott that the No. 9 Chevrolet had developed a left-front tire rub. However, Elliott maintained his fifth-place spot and reported he would do his best on-track to keep the tire from going down.
Unfortunately, the left-front tire went down at Lap 24, bringing out the caution. McGrew called Elliott into the pits so the Aaron’s Dream Machine/Hendrickcars.com team could change the blown left-front tire as well as pound out some of the damage on the left-front wheel area. In an effort to stay on the lead lap, McGrew had Elliott rejoin the field after this stop but radioed for him to come into the pits once more so the team could finish fixing the damage on the No. 9 Chevrolet. During this stop, it was discovered that the left-front sway bar arm was broken. Not having enough time during the stop to fix this issue and still maintain being on the lead lap, McGrew made the call that the team would fix it at the mandatory halfway break at Lap 50. When the race resumed at Lap 32, Elliott was 31st.
Despite the apparent setbacks, Elliott battled hard in his No. 9 Chevrolet to stay on the lead lap but was lapped at Lap 46. However, a timely caution came out a lap later and Elliott received the Lucky Dog and was back on the lead lap. Shortly after, the red flag came out for the mandatory halfway break so all cars came down pit road for adjustments.
During this stop, Elliott’s team went to work on the No. 9 Chevrolet and was able to replace the broken sway bar arm with a new one. In addition to that, they added two right-side tires and fuel. When the race restarted at Lap 49, Elliott was 32nd. Seven laps later, the Dawsonville, Ga., native was already up to 19th.
Elliott continued to drive his way through the field and by Lap 91, he was running ninth. Elliott radioed to his team that the No. 9 Chevrolet was running well, and he confidently stated that they might just have a car that could win the event.
By Lap 98, Elliott picked up four spots and took over the fifth position, which is where he remained when the race ended on Lap 100. In the closing remarks on the radio after the race, McGrew commended Elliott’s resilient effort despite the many setbacks and that in the race’s final four laps, he was clocking in laps faster than race winner Kyle Larson.
Elliott has posted one win, nine top-five finishes and 15 top-10s in 25 career K&N Pro Series starts. In 11 K&N Pro Series East starts this season, he has posted one win, one pole award, five top-five finishes, eight top-10s and led a total of 70 laps.
Next up, Elliott will drive his No. 9 Aaron’s Dream Machine/Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet in the Sept. 28 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.