Motorsports insider: Chase Elliott making a name for himself in truck series

Posted Wednesday, Jul. 10, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
More information Series updates Sprint Cup Johnson again: Is there any question Jimmie Johnson is the front-runner for his sixth title? The five-time champion won Saturday at Daytona, his fourth win of the season, sweeping both Daytona races for the first time since Bobby Allison in 1982. One-man ride: Kurt Busch is ninth in the points standings. It’s an impressive feat this late into the season, as the No. 78 Chevrolet is the only car for Furniture Row Racing. “We’re not putting the cart before the horse,” Busch said. “We still have a long ways to go with a lot of hard work ahead of us. You can go down as quickly as you can go up in the point standings.... Look at us. We were 20th in points just four races ago.” IndyCar Ganassi’s day: Chip Ganassi Racing is one of the better teams in the open-wheel circuit, but hadn’t won this year. Until Sunday at the Pocono IndyCar 400. Scott Dixon finally got the Ganassi team into Victory Lane in 2013 with a win, and was followed by teammates Charlie Kimball and Dario Franchitti. It also marked the 100th win for the Target Racing program. NHRA Built body: Funny Car driver Courtney Force, daughter of John Force, made a few headlines as it was revealed she bared her physique for this year’s ESPN the Magazine’s Body Issue, which is out Friday. He said it “It’s a track I enjoy racing on. I’ve really loved running there. It is so challenging to pass with how the car has to roll the center. You work so hard trying to get that to happen all day. I enjoy short-track racing, and the corners and the speeds there kind of lend itself to that style. It’s just a little bit frustrating that I haven’t won there because I feel like it’s a track that I should be capable of doing that.” — Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire

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A freshman won the Heisman Trophy last year. A 14-year-old made the cut at the Masters. Four players who are 21 or younger are going to this year’s MLB All-Star Game.

The youth movement is alive and well throughout the sports world, including auto racing. NASCAR is promoting its future stars who are now shining in the sport’s lower series.

Chase Elliott is the latest to make a splash on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, a breeding ground for future Sprint Cup drivers. The 17-year-old Elliott, the son of former Sprint Cup champion Bill Elliott, has finished in the top-10 in his first three races.

He finished fourth at the Lucas Oil 200 at Dover International Speedway in late May, fifth at the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 in mid-May and sixth last week at the Kroger 250 in April.

Elliott’s average finish of 5.0 ties him with Kurt Busch (2000) for the best three-race debut for a true NASCAR rookie in the truck series. Does he feel he’s ready to win as the youngest driver in series history?

“I haven’t thought about it a whole lot,” he 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 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.”

Still, if Elliott can find a way to reach Victory Lane at some point, he’ll be yet another driver who used the truck series as a launching pad.

Austin Dillon won his first NASCAR race in the truck series back in 2010 as a 20-year-old. His younger brother, Ty, earned his first truck series win at 20, too, last year. Earlier this year, Kyle Larson won his first truck series event at 19.

For Elliott, it could happen any race, possibly this Saturday’s American Ethanol 200 at Iowa Speedway.

“I think we are pretty close personally [to winning],” Elliott said. “I feel like everything is where it needs to be to have success. I feel like our trucks are fast and all the guys do a really good job.

“The biggest thing is just me learning. I’ve made a lot of mistakes these past three races, and if I can just put a mistake-free race on my end and if the guys can do their job, I think we are right there.”

Does his dad agree? Of course he does.

“I think he’s very close,” Bill Elliott said. “It’s all a matter of circumstances, getting in the right place at the right time and you don’t necessarily have to have the best truck. You’ve just got to put yourself in position to win.”

Chase Elliott is certainly beginning to make a name for himself, much like a lot of second-generation drivers.

Jeb Burton, son of Ward Burton, won his first truck series race last month at Texas Motor Speedway. Ryan Blaney, son of Dave Blaney, became the youngest truck series winner last year.

“When I was 17, I wasn’t just barely but racing,” Bill Elliott said. “I’ve just tried to get him as much experience at the different racetracks as we possibly can. But, my God, what the kid’s already won is just incredible.”

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison

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