Chase Elliott wont play favorites in Dale Jr.s final full-time Daytona run

Despite his Hendrick teammates career winding down, Elliott wont hesitate to hold off Junior if it means sealing a playoff spot

John David Mercer—0
Feb 19

With two laps remaining in the 2017 Daytona 500, Chase Elliott was out front with his first breakthrough win all but sealed. No one could catch the electric blue No. 24 machine, not even some of NASCAR’s top dogs who were all on his tail.That was when he ran out of fuel.Elliott was surpassed by Kyle Larson, who also ran out of gas on the final lap to ultimately hand the win over to Kurt Busch. This time around, the race is 400 miles as opposed to the 500 in February, meaning the strategy is completely different.But if Elliott gets the opportunity to win again, no one’s standing in his way. Not even teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.”He is a teammate and a great friend, but I certainly want to out-run him,” Elliott said with a smile. “I am not going to feel bad about out-running someone for sure if I can do it. … I would be happy for him if he was to go on and win the race and I am not going to be upset about that. “I think if that happens there will be a lot of happy people. I would be happy for him if that is the case but I would rather it be us.”Earnhardt heads into Saturday night’s race with four wins — the most of any active driver — and 12 top-three finishes at Daytona in 35 career points races at the track. However, he hasn’t exactly fared well in the last three visits since his 2015 Daytona 500 triumph, finishing outside the top 20 in every race, including two wrecks in the last two years.Elliott has seen similar results during his first three attempts at Daytona, finishing outside the top 30 in the first two before this past February’s race. So to say that he would just submit to Earnhardt when he has a chance to capture his first win was just preposterous. But what if Earnhardt was ahead of him on the final lap?”I am just hoping I have the right push to get around him,” Elliott said.No hesitation?”Absolutely not,” Elliott said. “I wouldn’t think twice about it if I had an opportunity to pass him. I am not going to let anybody win. Would you?”Elliott doubled up when he left the media center on Twitter.I'm curious, who wouldn't make a pass on last lap for a W? Cause I sure as would if I had the chance. Got asked today in media center.— Chase Elliott (@chaseelliott) June 30, 2017
In most cases, this is exactly what NASCAR fans want to see: A driver not giving any leeway to another, regardless of whether or not it’s his/her teammate. The last true example of this at the front of the pack was the now-retired Carl Edwards winning at Richmond last season with a bump-and-run on Kyle Busch.But not all NASCAR fans are in favor of pulling such a move on the 14-time Most Popular Driver Award winner. Just ask Jimmie Johnson, who has been ragged on by Earnhardt fans any time he’s involved in an accident with the No. 88 car or passes him late for a win instead of drafting with him.After signing a four-year contract extension, however, Elliott has more pressure than ever to win a race. And following four straight top-eight finishes, the 21-year-old driver isn’t exactly changing his approach to Saturday night’s race.”I think if the length of a contract changes how you go about your job, then you’re in the wrong sport,” Elliott said. “I feel very passionate about that. I think you have to bring the same amount of intensity and drive each weekend, whether your contract is good for ten years or this is your last race. I think that’s how you need to go about it or anything that you do. “So, I’m not changing how I race or how well I want to do. We want to win and run well more than anybody else wants us to or thinks they want us to. We are certainly very driven to want to continue to do well, regardless.”