Santa Fe New Mexican

Elliott looking to repeat in N.Y.

- By John Kekis

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Chase Elliott is back at Watkins Glen Internatio­nal where he won for the first time at NASCAR’s top level. Rest assured that last year’s victory on the speedy road course in New York’s Finger Lakes region is not on his mind.

“Everybody wants to talk about last year and that’s great,” Elliott said Saturday before Cup qualifying. “I’m glad last year happened, for sure. Proud of it. But we celebrated it when it was time to celebrate it and now is not really the time to celebrate it.

“It’s out of my system. It’s time to come back and try to run good,” said Elliott, fourth to Hendrick Motorsport­s teammate Alex Bowman in the first practice. “I felt like we had an OK first practice, but we have some work to do. It’s tough. Everybody’s real close.”

Last year, Elliott had been mired in a confoundin­g losing streak since the start of his Cup career in 2016. His victory at The Glen came in his 99th Cup start and assured him of his first spot in the playoffs. It also gave him a big dose of confidence after leading a race-high 52 laps, outdueling Kyle Busch to win the second stage, and holding off Martin Truex Jr.

In the postseason, Elliott won twice more — at Dover and Kansas — though he failed to make the final four.

“More than anything, being fast last year was nice,” said Elliott, who passed Busch in a scintillat­ing second segment as the crowd roared. He didn’t have to worry about Busch at the end because of a faulty fuel probe that took him out of contention. “That’s what helps more than anything. Just knowing that we had some decent pace. I think that’s the most important thing. If you have pace, then the rest of it can come. Hopefully, we can have that again.”

Elliott has already qualified for the postseason with his win

at Talladega in May, but after four straight top-fives he hasn’t had a top-10 finish in the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsport­s Chevrolet since June at Pocono, seven races ago.

The race over the 2.45 mile natural terrain layout at Watkins Glen on Sunday offers a chance to gain some momentum after that tough stretch.

“The frustratin­g ones are the ones you can control. Making mistakes that we shouldn’t make and I shouldn’t make. Just cleaning that stuff up,” said Elliott, who somehow avoided a crash in morning practice when Matt Tifft spun in front of him. “It happens. I can’t say I’m bogged down by it, but I certainly want to get things going on the right path. We still have time to do that. This would be as good a place as any to get things going in the right direction.”

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