HAMPTON, Ga. – Chase Elliott checked off the highest box on his NASCAR Cup Series to-do list by capturing the championship last November at Phoenix Raceway.
Now, he’s returning home to try and accomplish the second-biggest feat on that checklist: winning a Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Elliott will take aim at the 1.54-mile quad-oval during Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, seeking his first win at the track in his sixth Cup Series start there.
The good news for Elliott is that he has four top-10 finishes in his five prior Atlanta Cup races, including an eighth-place finish from the pole last summer.
Unfortunately for the Dawsonville, Ga., native, circumstances haven’t fallen his way yet at his home race track. It’s a statistic he’d desperately like to change this weekend.
“I would love to have a win at Atlanta (Motor Speedway). I feel like anybody’s home track, you want to have a win at, for sure, if you can get it. But like I’ve said in the past, I’m not super picky when it comes to wins; I’m good with wherever. They’re too hard to win,” Elliott told reporters during a media conference call this week. “Atlanta would be great. I would love to get it done one day and be able to have one there, for sure.”
Much like the Cup Series veterans who have tasted victory at Atlanta in the past, Elliott knows that one of the main challenges at the historic facility is its extremely abrasive asphalt, which leads to some of the highest tire wear of any track on the circuit.
“Atlanta (Motor Speedway) is tough. It’s an old surface, for sure, which I think makes it fun for the drivers,” Elliott explained. “I feel like a lot of people enjoy going there because of that. But overall, for us, it’s been super hit or miss and I really don’t know why. We’ve gone there and we’ve had some really good runs; a couple of days that I thought we were capable of winning. And then we’ve been there and just been way out to lunch. So, I’m not exactly sure what that is all the time.
“Obviously, car configuration, rules, different packages and all that stuff plays a role in it. Hopefully, this week we can be more on the hit side and execute a good race,” Elliott added. “You have to have things going well for you to have a shot to win anywhere, but definitely have to execute a good race to put yourself in position to win. So, hopefully, we can check both of those boxes.”
Though Atlanta is his home track, Elliott doesn’t feel any sense of home field advantage.
“It’s super tough. NASCAR is definitely unique in that way, and I don’t really have a good way of describing that for you,” explained Elliott. “But it’s definitely not like having home field; it’s not like the Brave’s having home field advantage for their playoff run or whatever. … I wish Atlanta were like that for me, but there’s a lot of people there that want to see other drivers do well, too. Granted, I think a lot of them are from around here and will want to see us do well. But I guess the reason is there are 39 other people in the event, not just the two teams.
“Logically thinking, I guess that would be why it’s different.”
With the Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway dirt weekend upcoming for the NASCAR Cup Series field at the end of the month, some pundits have said they feel the Atlanta weekend has been overshadowed by Bristol due to its positioning on this year’s schedule.
Elliott, however, doesn’t feel that way, though he does recognize there has been a lot of pre-race chatter surrounding Bristol’s dirt endeavor.
“Atlanta is always going to be a special place for me. I spent a lot of time racing Legend cars and things like that down there. So I would love to go and have a good run,” Elliott tipped. “But a lot of people are talking about Bristol, for sure. I hate that for Atlanta that people feel that way, but I anticipate the same people who are saying that it’s overshadowing the race will likely tune in on Sunday at the same time.
“Hopefully it’s a good race for everybody and we can have a good run.”
Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 is set for a 3 p.m. ET start, with live coverage on FOX, the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.