COMMENTARY | 11 years ago in 2002, 1988 Cup Series champion Bill Elliott was kissing the "row of bricks" as the winner of the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway; kneeling alongside him was his six-year-old son Chase. Those memories are paving the way for even more good times for the Elliott family, as Chase, now 17 and a development driver with Hendrick Motorsports, is off to one of the best rookie starts in NASCAR history and has begun winning races on the same superspeedways his father dominated.
The younger Elliott's most recent win came at Pocono Raceway in the ARCA Racing Series race in June. It was his first trip to the 2.5-mile tri-oval, but the Elliott name was synonymous with success at the track: the elder Elliott had five poles, five wins and 22 top 10 finishes in 48 starts at the Pennsylvania speedway. With the win, Elliott became the youngest winner in the ARCA Racing Series, and can now set his sights on a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win.
"I think we are pretty close personally," said Elliott, who races this weekend at Iowa Speedway, in a recent NASCAR teleconference. "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. I feel like if we can just get to Iowa this weekend and I can do my job and know what I want when we unload and just put together a mistake-free race, I think we are right there, man. I feel pretty confident in that, and yeah, 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."
Saturday's race at Iowa will be just his fourth Truck Series race, but Elliott has already put together an impressive string of finishes: sixth (Martinsville), fifth (Rockingham) and fourth (Dover). His average finish of 5.0 ties Elliott with Kurt Busch for the best-ever three-race debut for a true national series rookie. The young driver admits he still has much to learn, particularly when it comes to pit stops.
"I struggled with green flag pit stops at Dover, and that's just one of very many things that change along the way and that's one thing that I've struggled with up to this point," said Elliott. "That's something I've put a lot of emphasis on to do a better job…the next time we have to make some more green flag stops. So pit road has been a struggle for me, doing that, that's kind of something new. For me, that's been my biggest speed bump so far, and hopefully I can get that corrected this weekend."
His championship-winning father, who has 44 wins and 55 poles in Cup Series competition, thinks his son has what it takes to win in the Truck Series, and soon.
"…Given the right circumstances, as good as we've run the past number of races, and you never know and 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," said the elder Elliott, whose last Cup Series race was the July 2012 Daytona race. "We've got a great group of guys around him, and given the right circumstance, I believe he can have them, but on the flipside, it can go the other way, too. But I think it's very, very possible. I mean, we ran really well at Dover. You know, you kind of look at that scenario and how tough a racetrack that is, and you know, now we're going to Iowa and we'll just - he's had good success there in what he's run there."
The 17-year-old has made three starts at Iowa Speedway in the K&N Pro Series East, and walked away from all three with top 10 finishes, including a win in May 2012.
"I'm very excited," said Elliott of the race in Iowa. "I think this racetrack is a lot of fun. I think it puts on some great racing, and the place is known for that in the past. 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."
Sources: "Storylines: New Hampshire and Iowa," NASCAR Media, July 8, 2013
"NASCAR Teleconference with Chase Elliott and Bill Elliott," NASCAR Media, July 10, 2013
Paula is a freelance writer and photographer who specializes in motorsports. She also covers NASCAR at Skirts & Scuffs and Examiner.com.
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