Elliott could be the favorite in Round 2 of the Playoffs

WATKINS GLEN, NEW YORK - AUGUST 03: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet, stands in the garage with Crew Chief Alan Gustafson during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Go Bowling at The Glen at Watkins Glen International on August 03, 2019 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

On paper, Chase Elliott comes to Dover International Speedway with all the momentum a driver could want. He won last week at the Charlotte ROVAL, is the defending winner of Sunday’s Drydene 400 at Dover (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), won at next week’s venue, Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in May and is the defending race winner at the following track, Kansas Speedway.

Yet, the humble, always even demeanor Elliott insists he is not necessarily an overwhelming favorite in this Playoff round despite his quite literal, track record.

“Past success doesn’t guarantee a good run here Sunday,’’ Elliott said, allowing a small smile. “If it did, we wouldn’t put any effort in or wouldn’t try, it would just be guaranteed so we wouldn’t come.’’

The second generation star and the sport’s newest “Most Popular Driver” has long adopted the mantra of taking it a “race at a time.” But when you’ve been as good as his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team has been, optimism seems a given.

“It’s just part of racing,’’ he explained, adding, “I think we just have to keep pushing and this round definitely isn’t going to be an easy round. I think it’s going to be tough. I think the caliber of cars left, there are some really strong teams in that 12, so I don’t expect this to be easy and we are certainly going to treat it that way.’’

Elliott, however, has been one of the best at Dover in recent years. He has six Top-5 finishes in seven starts including that Playoff win last year and back-to-back Top-3 finishes in the two Dover races his rookie year. He won the pole position and started fifth at the track this May.

Greg Engle