Last place is never a good finish, but for Chase Elliott, it’s baby steps after an interesting weekend in unfamiliar waters. The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion made his rallycross début over the weekend in the Nitro Rallycross season finale at the Florida International Rally & Motorsports Park (FIRM), and he found himself sparring with rallycross’s best in his fight into the final race.
Elliott drove the #9A ZipRecruiter car that fellow Cup champion Kyle Busch piloted two rounds prior at Wild Horse Pass. After being the sixth and eleventh quickest in two practice sessions, he took on Tanner Foust in his battle qualifying race on Saturday. After chasing down Foust until the final lap, Elliott made his move on the inside as they went through the final hairpin, causing the two to slam.
He cleared Foust and was initially declared the winner as the first to cross the line. However, the move for the lead, which consisted of Elliott keeping his car straight as he collided with Foust akin to a hip check, was ruled a push to pass. Elliott was consequently penalised and Foust got the victory. Foust would be eliminated by Timmy Hansen in the next round.
Sunday began with Elliott running the second heat race, where he started fourth. He and Oliver Eriksson opted to take the Joker Lap on the opening circuit, and he would finish in his starting position. This relegated him to the second semi-final, where he was caught in a duel with Fraser McConnell for the second and final transfer spot. Although McConnell beat him to the finish, he received a penalty for contact with Oliver Bennett and going off course.
“I don’t really know the rules well enough to know why the guy in front of me got a penalty,” quipped Elliott afterwards.
Elliott started the final in seventh of eighth, and was one of five drivers to immediately go for the Joker. While the race’s fiercest battles came between championship hopefuls and former NASCAR regulars Travis Pastrana and Scott Speed, Elliott ran at the back where he challenged the likes of Foust and Steve Arpin. Arpin is also an ex-NASCAR driver, incidentally driving for JR Motorsports in what is now the Xfinity Series, where Elliott won the 2014 championship with said team. By the end, Elliott finished eighth.
Pastrana won the championship over Speed in a tiebreaker. While Pastrana has enjoyed much success in rallying, rallycross success typically eluded him as his win at Wild Horse Pass in November was his first in the discipline since 2012. Sage Karam, a part-time Xfinity driver, finished third in the NRX NEXT class after winning on Sunday, while Camping World Truck Seires Most Popular Driver recipient Hailie Deegan participated in the SxS support class.