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Local Sports

NASCAR’s next generation here

Second-generation driver Chase Elliott blazing his own trail in racing

Chase Elliott, the 17-year-old son of NASCAR legend "Awesome Bill" Elliott talks about the successful start to his NASCAR career Thursday afternoon at the Iowa Speedway. Chase Elliott even became the youngest winner ever at Iowa Speedway last year when he won the fall K&N Pro Series event.
Chase Elliott, the 17-year-old son of NASCAR legend "Awesome Bill" Elliott talks about the successful start to his NASCAR career Thursday afternoon at the Iowa Speedway. Chase Elliott even became the youngest winner ever at Iowa Speedway last year when he won the fall K&N Pro Series event.

Every little boy follows his father around, doing what he does. They want to be like Dad.

Chase Elliott was no different than any other little boy. Now, the 17-year-old son of 1988 NASCAR champion Bill Elliott is forging his own way in NASCAR racing.

“Growing up and watching my dad race. Everybody wants to be like their dad so I’ve always seen the driver’s aspect of things. That was the side of the sport I was on and it made me want to go do it,” Elliott said.

“I’ve never been pressured by my dad to race. If I decided right now that I didn’t want to race anymore there would be no problems. But it is what I want to do and I’m me. My family supports me in competing in the sport.”

Elliott comes into Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Iowa Speedway as part of the next young crop of drivers. Elliott is looking forward to the 2013 American Ethanol 200.

“I think this racetrack is a lot of fun. It puts on some great racing and I’ve won here before in the K&N Series race last year. I’m comfortable racing at Iowa,” Elliott said Thursday.

Comfortable and confident is Elliott in the world of racing.

Elliott said he is not worried about becoming the youngest race winner in the truck series history. Ryan Blaney has that distinction at 18 years, 5 months and 15 days winning on the Iowa track in 2012.

“I haven’t thought about it a whole lot,” Elliott said. “For me, we are just there to win like everybody else is and try to do a better job than the next guy. So I haven’t really put a whole lot into my age and how old I am and how old the rest of these guys are. Just more so our personal program and what we need to do to be a little bit better.”

Taking advantage of a new NASCAR rule that allows 16- and 17-year-olds to compete on ovals 1.1 miles in length and shorter, Elliott has nine truck races on his schedule this season, including both races at Iowa Speedway. The rest of the time Elliott is competing in ARCA Racing Series events.

Saturday will be Elliott’s fourth start in the truck series after having a strong start to his career in the truck races. He finished sixth at Martinsville, fifth at Rockingham and fourth at Dover.

Elliott’s average finishing position of 5.0 tied him with Kurt Busch (2000 rookie of the year in trucks) for the best three-race debut in the series.

Elliott is driving the No. 94 Chevrolet in trucks this season with Lance McGrew serving as his crew chief.

“I feel like if we can get up there and just put together a mistake-free weekend and just have everything go our way, I think we’ll be just fine,” Elliott said. “It’s going to take a fast truck and a truck that’s going to be good throughout the race.”

Elliott said it comes down to preparation both physically and mentally in the sport of racing. He said he had to do his job as a driver to put together a mistake-free race so his team can do its job with the truck.

Making a good qualifying run makes a driver’s life in a race a lot easier, Elliott pointed out. He said they hadn’t tested for Iowa coming into the race but is looking forward to the practice sessions on Friday at the Speedway.

“Good pit selection and that track position is very important so hopefully, we can put a whole weekend together. We haven’t been able to do that yet. I’m hoping we can do that this weekend,” Elliott said.

Elliott said he believes he is close to claiming his first truck series victory. He said the trucks are fast and all the guys on his crew do a really good job. The biggest thing is him learning how to handle things at this level of racing.

“A lot of changes come up with moving up a level. For example, I struggled with green- flag pit stops at Dover and that’s just one of the very many things that change along the way. So pit road has been a struggle for me, doing that. You can gain half a second on a guy in front of you on pit road if you do it right and that’s huge. That’s hard to get on the racetrack so there’s a lot to be gained or lost in pit stops,” he said.

Elliott won at Iowa Speedway driving the cars in the K&N Series in 2012. He is spending some of his summer racing in cars on the ARCA circuit.

“There’s a big difference in the two. The trucks are a little under-powered compared to the ARCA cars. The trucks have a lot of drag to them and the ARCA cars have more of a motor — more power,” Elliott said. “The tires are different for each one.

“When you’re hoping in one or the other, you have a feel of when the car or truck is driving good. As long as you keep in the back of your mind the variations and differences, its not too bad of a transition.”

In June, Elliott became the youngest driver ever to win an ARCA race on a speedway when he prevailed at Pocono.

Later, he held the lead in the final lap of an ARCA event at Road America, before bobbling in a corner and finishing fourth.

Elliott, like his father, knows how important it is to have a good team around you. He is a developmental driver for Hendrick Motorsports, owned by Rick Hendrick. Aaron’s is his sponsor

“You know, we’ve been very fortunate to have Aaron’s with us, especially this year in the Truck Series and running ARCO races, and hopefully we’ll have that next year and we can get things worked out,” he said. “But obviously nothing’s set in stone yet, but you know, for me, the biggest thing is our sponsor, and just having a sponsor like Aaron’s that’s such a great supporter of NASCAR; just they get it and they understand what it takes to be a supporter of NASCAR, and hopefully we can keep them on board.”

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