Chase Elliott having A Better Year at 18 Years Old Than Most People

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by Ryan Isley

How do you prove that nepotism isn’t the reason you have a ride with a NASCAR team? Kick everyone’s ass like Chase Elliott did this season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

The son of NASCAR Hall of Fame member Bill Elliott showed that he got his father’s genes when he took the Nationwide Series – and the NASCAR community as a whole – by storm when he picked up the first win on his Nationwide Series career fro JR Motorsports at Texas in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 on April 4. Just to prove that wasn’t a fluke, he went out the next week and went to victory lane at Darlington. His high school classmates were at their prom that night getting pictures taken while dressed up in fancy clothes; Elliott was in a firesuit getting pictures taken with a trophy.

That’s just the kind of storybook season that 2014 turned out to be for the 18-year-old from Dawsonville, Georgia.  Don’t you remember your senior year of high school? I am sure it was probably similar to that of Chase Elliott’s. Or maybe not. Actually, it was nothing like Elliott’s.

Instead of going to prom, Elliott won a NASCAR Nationwide Series race.  And yeah, he did the whole graduation thing. But then he went out later that day and qualified sixth for a Nationwide Series race in which he ended up finishing fourth the next day.

Elliott ended up leading the series with three wins on the season, as only 10 of the 33 races were won by drivers competing for the Nationwide Series championship and 23 races were won by guys competing for the Sprint Cup Series title. Brendan Gaughan finished with two wins and was the only other series driver with multiple victories.

The third win of the season for Elliott cam at the EnjoyIllinois.com 300 at Chicagoland Speedway on July 19 in the season’s 18th race. Elliott entered the race in third place in the series standings, but left Chicago with the points lead. He was able to take that momentum into the rest of the season, never relinquishing his old on the points lead and won the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship pretty handily, clinching the title in the season’s next-to-last race as he finished 5th at Phoenix. The 5th-place finish was the 13th top-10 in a row for Elliott and his eighth top-5 finish in an 11-race span.

Elliott ended up leading the series with three wins on the season, as only 10 of the 33 races were won by drivers competing for the Nationwide Series championship and 23 races were won by guys competing for the Sprint Cup Series title. Brendan Gaughan finished with two wins and was the only other series driver with multiple victories.

When Elliott wasn’t winning, he was almost always in contention. His 26 top-10s tied him with Regan Smith for the most in the series, while his 16 top-5s blew the competition out of the water. The next-closest drivers were Smith, Elliott Sadler and Ty Dillon with seven top-5s. Elliott finished worse than 15th just four times this season, with one of those races being the season finale at Homestead-Miami after he had already won the series championship.

Elliott was able to do all of this despite the possible distraction handed down at the end of July. It was then that that Hendrick Motorsports announced that Elliott’s crew chief Greg Ives would be taking over as the crew chief for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2015, replacing the departing Steve Letarte. Distraction? Not at all. That’s when Elliott ripped off his 13 straight top-10s to solidify his place at the top of the standings and bring home the championship. Not bad mental strength for an 18-year-old.

If this is only the beginning, who knows what the ceiling might be for Chase Elliott? But with a name like Chase, you better believe the headlines will write themselves at the next level.

Being an Elliott isn’t bad, either.

Comments? Questions? You can leave them here or email Ryan at ryan.isley@morethanafan.net. You can also connect with him on Twitter @isley23.