Chase Elliott has led the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series field to the green flag four times in his young career.
But in a way, Elliott’s pole Friday for the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway was his first.
Elliott’s previous four poles came at Daytona and Talladega, restrictor-plate tracks where drivers say they have very little input on the outcome of a lap.
That’s not the case at Bristol, where a driver’s talent has a lot to do with getting a good lap.
“We joke about it regularly,” Elliott said. “That’s why we were excited to get a pole. We’ve had some fast cars at the plate tracks and (crew chief) Alan (Gustafson) had some success there long before I ever came around, so that was really no surprise.
“But to come to one of these places, I feel like I contribute a little more than I do at Daytona or Talladega for qualifying. It’s certainly something I’ve been wanting to do for them for a while.”
Elliott was fastest of the 12 cars who reached the final round of qualifying, making a lap of 131.713 mph to edge Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron.
“It was a great Friday,” Elliott said. “I’ve not had many good Fridays in my career, so I certainly want to enjoy it. Having that first pit box is always a big deal, probably as big a deal here as anywhere we go, so that’s huge and not something I’ve enjoyed a whole lot in my career. I’d like to enjoy it some more and hopefully we can keep it rolling, but we’ve got to focus on Bristol and try and get a win sooner rather than later.”
Ryan Blaney was quickest in the lone Cup practice Friday and then was quickest in the first two rounds of qualifying. But he made a mistake in the final round and ended up third.
“I think Ryan probably threw me a bone,” Elliott said. “It looked like he messed up. He had a really good lap going.”
Erik Jones was fourth, with Denny Hamlin fifth. Sixth through 10th were Aric Almirola, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard and Jimmie Johnson.
Elliott won three times in 2018 but is looking for his first win of this season, as well as his first career short-track victory.
“We have some work to do tomorrow to be really good on Sunday, but I think it’s doable,” Elliott said. “Our car has pace, so if we get it driving good, we can hopefully give ourselves a chance.”
The Cup Series has one more practice, slated for 8:30 a.m. Eastern on Saturday. The Food City 500 is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday.
Story and Photo Courtesy of Bristol Motor Speedway