Chase Elliott won’t stop snowboarding or participating in any of the other off-track activities he enjoys, even after an accident in Colorado sidelined NASCAR’s most popular driver with a broken leg.
Elliott will return this weekend at Martinsville Speedway after missing six Cup races with a broken left tibia that he suffered in a March 3 snowboarding accident.
“I wasn’t out doing anything that was wild or crazy,” said Elliott, an experienced snowboarder. “I don’t have a cool story to tell. It was just that perfect storm that could happen at any point in time.”
The 27-year-old underwent surgery the night of the accident and revealed Thursday that he has remaining screws in his leg near his left knee.
His crash raised questions about team owner Rick Hendrick‘s recent willingness to allow his drivers to participate in extracurricular activities — something NASCAR’s winningest team owner had typically prohibited, although Hendrick’s rules related primarily to racing outside of NASCAR.
NASCAR has given Elliott, the 2020 Cup champion who has raced in the title-deciding finale the past three years, a waiver to qualify for the playoffs. But he’ll most certainly need to win at least one race to overcome the deficit he’s in because of the injury.
Even so, he said he’ll continue his off-track activities and that he counts snowboarding as part of his physical fitness regimen.
“I feel like you have to enjoy your life and go do things that are a nice … escape from this every week,” Elliott said. “There’s a lot that goes into racing and I think you have to have that way to escape and give your mind a rest.
“The accident could have happened tripping down stairs, or on a jog. Snowboarding is something that I’ve been doing for a long time. I am comfortable doing it. It’s one of those things that I’ve used as a training tool over the years — no different than riding bikes.”
Elliott said he knew “pretty quickly” he was seriously injured and spoke with his team while in the emergency room. He immediately told the team to get a replacement driver.
“I knew my knee was messed up. I certainly knew it wasn’t right and was going to probably take surgery,” Elliott said.
He said doctors have told him the integrity of the bone is fine and he’s not in danger of further injury.
Josh Berry, who drove five of the six races Elliott missed in the No. 9 Chevrolet, will be on standby at the Virginia short track for Elliott’s comfort level in the car.
Elliott is a one-time winner at Martinsville in 15 career starts.
“I wouldn’t go this weekend if I didn’t feel like I could do it,” Elliott said.