Chase Elliott charges to career-best Martinsville finish

MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 01: Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 SunEnergy1 Chevrolet, practices for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 1, 2017 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – When it came to Chase Elliott’s performance in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Martinsville Speedway, the driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was suffering from a severe lack of self-esteem.

After Sunday’s STP 500 at the .526-mile short track, Elliott will have to reevaluate.

Starting on the outside of the front row after rain washed out Friday’s time trials, Elliott ran in the top five for the bulk of the afternoon and rolled home third, by far his best result in four Monster Energy Series starts at the iconic track.

In fact, Elliott has shown steady improvement since running 38th in his 2015 debut at the track. In last year’s races, he was 20th, then 12th. And his third-place finish on Sunday followed a victory in a 250-lapper in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

“We started the race, and for whatever reason, my car would not turn at all for the first three or four laps, and I about knocked whoever was on the outside of me back to Charlotte a couple times, and I thought we were going to drop like a rock,” Elliott said. “Fortunately, I don’t know if it was just being on the splitter or whatever it was, but actually our car kind of came to life and started turning pretty good.

“From there, it drove pretty similar throughout the entire day. Like I said, I hope it’s a consistent trend, that we can continue to run decent here. Obviously, we’d love to kind of take that next step and try to contend for a win. But from where I’ve been here in the past, night and day, so I was really happy and proud of that.”

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