Another great start, another disappointing finish at Phoenix for Chase Elliott

AVONDALE, ARIZONA - MARCH 08: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 UniFirst Chevrolet, leads the field during the NASCAR Cup Series FanShield 500 at Phoenix Raceway on March 08, 2020 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

At Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, Chase Elliott once again was the victim of Murphy’s law.

In Friday’s time trials, Elliott won the pole for Sunday’s FanShield 500, marking the eighth straight top-10 start at Phoenix for the driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

Finishing races at the one-mile track, however, has been a problem for Elliott, and that proved true once again in the fourth NASCAR Cup Series event of the 2020 season. Elliott led the first 60 laps and finished second to Kevin Harvick in Stage 1.

He had a lead of more than one second over Brad Keselowski on Lap 156 but had to bring his car to pit road on Lap 156 because of a loose wheel. Though Elliott recovered to finish seventh, he was never a factor for the victory after the issue with the wheel.

And though he led a race-high 93 laps, that was small consolation for a lost opportunity with a fast car. A brush with the outside wall late in the race didn’t help matters. But Elliott should be able to return to Phoenix with confidence for the season finale in November—providing he can find a way to finish the race as effectively as he starts it.

“Yeah, certainly,” Elliott said. “We will build off of it for sure. Kevin (Harvick) was probably a tick better than us, I thought. But we’ll go to work.”

Greg Engle