The future of NASCAR was on prominent display in his first race at Texas Motor Speedway, and that little boy flew.
Rookie development driver Chase Elliott, in only his sixth Nationwide Series start, appeared fully developed after becoming the second-youngest winner in the history of the series, whipping some of the most notable stars of NASCAR in winning the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 on Friday night.
Joey Logano (2008) was a younger 18 when he first won on the Nationwide Series.
Kid Quick made a daring pass with his No. 9 Chevrolet on pole-sitter Kevin Harvick on Lap 184 and dominated the rest of the way to triumph ahead of Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson, last season’s Nationwide rookie of the year. It was Larson’s second top 10 at TMS.
“I can’t believe it,” said Elliott, an 18-year-old high school senior. “Just to have this opportunity [to race at this level] is a once in a lifetime.
“This is extremely special to me.”
Harvick, a JR Motorsports teammate, finished fourth and JR Motorsports owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. crossed the finish line fifth.
Elliott also took the series standings lead, jumping four spots to overtake JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith, who trails by two points.
“I knew it was just a matter of time,” Earnhardt Jr. said of Elliott’s prospects of winning. “He has so much ability. He’s years ahead of guys his age. He’s learning so much on the fly.
“We’re fortunate to have him.”
Trevor Bayne, who entered tied for the lead, fell to fifth after spinning out with a blown right tire on Turn 2. Bayne was one of several drivers who had tire issues.
“He was in a league of his own in the last 70 laps,” Busch said. “He was just so good.”
Harvick, who set a speedy pace, leading the race’s first 87 laps, led 101 of the event’s 200 laps.
Elliott’s rise in the sport has been atypical.
He became the youngest winner in ARCA last year and later the youngest pole-sitter in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
“He’s not arrogant or overconfident,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “He just knows how to handle it. Nothing really gets him too excited.
“It looks to me he doesn’t get into situations that overwhelm him.”
Elliott was second on the race’s last restart with 23 left to go.
He stalked Harvick, until making a move, passing the No. 5 on the high side.
“I knew he was way faster than them,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “It was just a matter of time. He went to the top and he’d been working that lane so he had a good understanding of the lane.
“He caught Harvick defending the wrong part of the track.”
Elliott is the product of NASCAR stock. His father, Bill, was the Sprint Cup champion in 1988. He has a few more months before graduating high school, where he’ll return Monday morning.
He claimed it’ll just be another Monday.
“No one likes Mondays,” Elliott said. “I’ll get back and get ready to go to Darlington. It’ll be good to know we had a good weekend.”