Chase Elliott spent most of the afternoon fighting his way to the front at Darlington Raceway, only to have to avoid a late wreck to pull off a top-five finish.

“It was a solid finish, for sure,” Elliott said of being third in the running order behind teammate William Byron and Kevin Harvick. “I felt like our No. 9 LLumar Chevy was plenty good enough to go up there and battle with those guys to win. I just struggled so bad in traffic; way worse than other guys do driving this caliber of a car. I just feel like, from that standpoint, I’ve got a lot of work to do on my end.

“Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and our team have done a really good job preparing good race cars. Our pit stops really kept us in the game all day. Obviously, we got really fortunate and lucky with those cautions coming out.”

Such a battle for track position was it for Elliott and the No. 9 team, he didn’t score points through either stage. Once Elliot had track position in the final stage, he was nearly collected in the crash between Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano off a restart with 13 laps to go in regulation.

Elliott was running sixth, sitting third in the outside lane, when the crash happened. There was contact for Elliot in the chain reaction, but he stayed on track and made it to the finish without issue.

Sunday was Elliott’s third top-10 finish in the last five races, all of which have been since he returned from being sidelined from a snowboarding injury. It was his best finish since returning to action.

In the last five races, Elliott has earned 163 points and climbed from 32nd to 28th in points. The former Cup Series champion still believes a win is going to put him in the playoffs and days like Darling ton have Elliott believing they are on the right path.

“I feel like our car was plenty good, really, throughout the whole day,” he said. “I just do such a terrible job getting up through traffic. I get stalled out behind guys, and I just feel like people driving cars like mine don’t do that. They tend to get up through there and get to where they belong.

“I feel like everything on the other side of the wall, and the car that I was driving was really, really good, so I need to just try to improve and keep going to work on the areas that I’m struggling in and try to build on the improvements we’ve made. But I certainly have a long ways to go. I’m really proud of our No. 9 LLumar Chevy team’s effort to keep us in the fight. Pit stops were unreal, and obviously got really lucky there at the end with those guys crashing and then the caution coming out quick for myself and guys like Brad to keep our spots like that.

“I’ll certainly take third, and appreciate all the effort this weekend. We’re making some small gains here and there, just got to get some more.”