On Monday morning, April 7, high school senior Chase Elliott showed up for class with the rest of his friends, “just a typical Monday morning,” in the words of the 18-year-old.
But Chase Elliott is anything but a typical teenager.
“It was a typical Monday morning. Nobody likes Mondays, whether you’re in school or having to go to work,” said Elliott in a NASCAR teleconference. “It was cool to be able to come home and to have had a good weekend. I had some good friends that keep up with what I do on the weekends, and cool to come back and see those guys.”
It was indeed a good weekend for Elliott, son of 1988 NASCAR Cup Series champ Bill Elliott. Just six races into his rookie campaign in the Nationwide Series, Elliott picked up his first series win at Texas Motor Speedway, a track he had never raced at before, beating the likes of Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch to the checkered flag. Elliott became the second-youngest winner in Nationwide Series history, and the youngest driver to ever lead the series’ points standings. Elliott won a Camping World Truck Series race last season at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
“I don’t know that it’s completely sunk in yet,” said Elliott of his win. “It is really, really cool to look back at that and to know that those guys, I’ve learned a lot from them. Kevin has been a guy who’s really reached out and offered a lot of advice and help, and I really appreciate that. And Kyle is a guy who I’ve raced a lot of big super late model races over the years. We’ve had some good races. So it was cool just to have the opportunity to go race with those guys on a weekly basis in the Nationwide Series I feel like is definitely just a privilege in itself, and to have a car and a team and effort to try to go and outrun them, that’s just unbelievable to me to just be in an opportunity to be able to go do that.”
The names Elliott and Earnhardt meant rivalry for many years in the Cup Series, with Bill and the late Dale Earnhardt battling each other on the track for NASCAR supremacy. These days, the names go together, as Chase Elliott is racing for JR Motorsports, co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., his sister Kelley Earnhardt Miller and Rick Hendrick of Hendrick Motorsports. Bill Elliott served as spotter for Earnhardt Jr. in a few races earlier in the season, and Earnhardt Miller has found something of a soul-sister in Elliott’s mother Cindy.
“I think I probably relate more to Chase’s mom in this scenario just being the female and kind of the relationship I have with Dale just on his success, and even Friday night I was texting her during the race when he took the lead there because I know how proud she is, and that’s kind of the pride that I have for my family kind of extends over to Chase and his family just from our history together,” said Earnhardt Miller. “I just think it’s really cool in general to see people like Chase and Ryan Blaney and Jeb Burton and those kids come up through the sport and to be able to get the opportunity to run and do something that their fathers – that’s the first time for me that I’ve kind of lived through that, to just take it all in and see these kids coming up and doing that.”
The younger Elliott will be competing for Rookie of the Year in the Nationwide Series this year, and knows he’ll have to continue to make good showings against the Sprint Cup Series “invaders” in the series – drivers he’s more than happy to compete against.
“I think it’s a great thing for the racetracks. It puts people in the stands. It brings eyes to TV, and I think it draws interest to the series,” said Elliott. “I feel like it’s good for everybody, and from a driving standpoint, as somebody that gets to compete against them each week, regardless of what happened this past weekend, I think it’s good to have them there. There’s too much to be learned from those guys – it would be a shame if we didn’t have them around to learn from. Like I said before, they’re in the positions they’re in for a reason. They know how to get the job done, and they’re at the level they’re at because they deserve it.”
Elliott continued, “I’ve been able to race against a few of them prior to the Nationwide Series this year at some short track levels with Kyle Busch and whatnot running some bigger super late model races, but to be able to race against those guys on a weekly basis at some racetracks that the cup guys race at, I feel like that’s a really good thing for the sport and it’s good for a young driver like myself to learn.”
Source: “Transcript: NASCAR Teleconference with Chase Elliott and Kelley Earnhardt Miller,” NASCAR Media, April 8, 2014