Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Chase Elliott got his program going in the right direction at Phoenix International Raceway, fighting his way forward from the 17th starting position to finish eighth in Sunday's Good Sam 500.
Elliott won the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500 but finished 37th, and after an eighth-place result at Atlanta, he was the victim of a late-race crash and came home 38th last Sunday at Las Vegas.
But on Sunday at PIR, Elliott finished better than he started, running as high as fifth in the No. 24 Chevrolet.
"I thought it was an improvement all day," Elliott said. "First off, my guys have been bringing such fast race cars to the race track every week since Daytona, and I haven't been doing a very good job of getting the finishes that they deserve. I'm just happy today that we could finally finish one of these things and get a solid top-10 finish.
"I felt like we made gains throughout the day. The guys did a great job on pit road, picking up spots there. (Crew chief) Alan (Gustafson) made good adjustments and gave up a couple spots on that last restart, but I was proud of the effort, and hopefully we can take it and try to get a little better in Fontana (Calif., site of next Sunday's race)."
Elliott, however, didn't gain much in relation to Ryan Blaney, his prime competition for rookie honors. Blaney restarted 12th for the race's final two-lap shootout and finished 10th, just two spots behind Elliott.