"You can't let those points just sit out there and not try to go get them because those bonus points you get for winning or winning a stage or winning a race or whatever, that's huge, and you need as many as you can get".
"We had a penalty (for speeding in pit lane) there early", he said, "got behind and luckily had a good enough auto and a good strategy to get back".
The victory in the Gander Outdoors 400, the opening race of the Round of 12 playoffs, locks Elliott and his Hendrick Motorsport Chevrolet into the Round of 8, which begins in three weeks at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
Only eight races ago, Elliott collected his first Cup series win on the road course at Watkins Glen, N.Y. on August 5th.
Elliott was greeted in victory lane with a hug from team owner Rick Hendrick and retired star Jeff Gordon also was there to congratulate the winning driver.
Elliott raced to his first career Cup win this season at Watkins Glen and earned a bit of redemption Sunday from a tough finish in last fall's Dover race.
Elliott was enjoying a solid if unspectacular afternoon up until the final laps, when a multi-car crash changed everything.
As the close calls and frustrating finishes mounted, and wins eluded him, Elliott, 22, could feel the pressure tighten each time he slipped into the No. 9 Chevrolet.
It was one big celebration on Sunday.
Bill Elliott did not attend the race, but with more races like this one, it's not hard to imagine son eventually eclipsing dad's mark of one Cup championship.
"I thought so", he said.
"We've had so many opportunities and been so close and had the auto to win and been in position and I don't know, it just seems to not come through", Almirola said.
Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing - a non-playoff driver - finished second while playoff driver Joey Logano of Team Penske was third. NASCAR playoff drivers took 10 of the top 15 spots. Almirola, who led 64 laps late and had his second career Cup win in sight, was running sixth off a restart when he got loose and connected with Brad Keselowski. But a round of pit stops later and a tight vehicle coming off Turn 2 off a restart led to a collision with Brad Keselowski, triggered a multi-car wreck and took him out of contention.
"It's a step in the right direction", Hamlin said. I'm so proud of him, especially after a year ago.
Almirola had lost the lead when Bowyer wrecked. He had led 286 laps at that point. "We were obviously in really good position there to win the race".
The mechanical failure was a continuation of the ill fortune the seven-time champion had suffered at Charlotte, where his attempted pass of Martin Truex Jr. on the last lap ended in an accident that knocked Johnson out of the playoffs on a tiebreaker.
Johnson, who made his NASCAR Cup Series debut 17 years ago to the day in 2001, had noticeable problems with his right front on the pace laps and was forced to take his auto to the garage while the rest of the field lined up for the start.
Almirola, who ended up 13th, was asked if he believed he had a shot at earning his first win since the July 2014 race at Daytona.
Elliott had 12-1 odds in the first-ever race where legalized sports betting happened at the track.
The chase toward the title continues today at Dover International Speedway. NASCAR does not prohibit its drivers or team members from betting on the race.
NASCAR president Steve Phelps said the series is set to implement guidelines in the rulebook on sports betting in 2019.