ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Eighteen-year-old Chase Elliott is one King’s Ridge Christian School senior who won’t be going to college in the fall. And that is the good news.
Elliott just won his first NASCAR Nationwide Series race April 4 at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, and is now the second-youngest driver to notch a Nationwide Series race. At this rate, he soon will no longer be introduced as the son of racing legend Bill Elliott. This son of a gun can drive.
After his big win on Friday, he didn’t have much time to celebrate. He had a math test on Monday.
Shuntel Beach, King’s Ridge’s public relations director, said Elliott handles himself with amazing maturity and ability to remain focused.
“We are all mesmerized by what he can do,” she said. “He crams five days of school into three days, so he can spend three days out of the week racing. He just handles it all so well.”
Elliott has also impressed the racing community. He certainly was on everybody’s radar screen when won his first NASCAR Truck Series race Sept. 1 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Ontario, Canada, in just his sixth Truck Series start.
One of those suitably impressed was Dale Earnhardt Jr. He signed the younger Elliott to his team to drive the No. 9 Chevrolet, owned by Earnhardt’s JR Motorsports and sponsored by NAPA, which is based in Atlanta.
To many NASCAR fans, it was ironic that sons are now racing on the same team when their fathers carried on one of racing’s great rivalries. But Elliott said that was their generation.
Elliott downplays that aspect. He said he and his father both see signing with JR Motorsports for what it is, a tremendous opportunity.
“Obviously, Dale Senior and my dad did some real hard racing together, and put on some of the best shows in NASCAR history in my opinion. But neither my dad or I are disappointed with the way things have worked out,” Elliott said. “Like I said, this is the chance of a lifetime.
“This is a dream come true for me. And to have this happen to me at such a young age is the opportunity of a lifetime,” Elliott said of joining JR Motorsports. “I always had high hopes this would happen. This has opened up a big door for me.
“I wasn’t real sure this could happen for me,” he said. “Now, I want to try to make the most of it. I really want this to be my career.”
If all goes well – and so far, it has gone extremely well – Elliott will run in all 33 races in the circuit this season. His first race was Feb. 22 at Daytona International Speedway. It took Elliott just 42 days to win his first NASCAR race.
So it came to pass that it was the No. 9 car that crossed the finish line first at Texas Motor Speedway, and teammate Earnhardt finished fifth.
One step below the Sprint Series where the elite drivers compete, Elliott says you will often see those elite drivers competing in the Nationwide Series as well. Often Sprint Series drivers will test some new technological wrinkle in their engine in a Nationwide Series race before using it in a Sprint Series race, where winning and losing is measured in hundredths of a second.
As if Elliott didn’t have enough on his plate, he will appear in the broadcast booth as well. He was asked to be part of the April 12 radio lineup for the Motor Racing Network. Elliott joined the MRN broadcast crew in the coverage of the Sprint Cup Series Bojangles’ Southern 500 from Darlington Raceway.
“Adding a driver to our broadcast team at Darlington will put listeners behind the wheel and give them a look into the minds of the competitors through Chase’s eyes,” said MRN President and Executive Producer David Hyatt. “The ‘Elliott’ name is synonymous with success at Darlington, and it’s a privilege to have one of NASCAR’s rising stars join us this weekend.”
The hype over Elliott has already begun, but he appears to have the maturity to handle it and keep his eye on the checkered flag.