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Apr 19, 2014 - 08:08 AM
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Chasing A Legacy: Bill Elliott's Son Ready To Tackle Talladega
Posted by: newsla on Apr 19, 2014 - 08:06 AM
NASCAR News
Chasing A Legacy: Bill Elliott's Son Ready To Tackle Talladega


As a young elementary school kid in 2001-2003, Chase Elliott vaguely remembers the last few races where his dad Bill Elliott tasted victory. Although he wasn’t around at the time, through history books and conversations with family members, he has learned all too well the success and the records the elder Elliott set at Talladega Superspeedway. That success resonates with the younger Elliott, who, as an 18-year-old rookie, has stunned the racing world by winning the last two NASCAR Nationwide Series races. Now he has Talladega and the Aaron’s 312, set for Saturday, May 3, on his mind.

 

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From 1985 through 1987, Bill Elliott won six consecutive poles at Talladega Superspeedway, part of a streak that placed him on the front row in nine consecutive Talladega races. Included is a qualifying run that might never be topped. On April 30, 1987, Elliott turned in a fast lap of 212.809 mph. It was a speed that still makes Chase shake his head in disbelief.

"That’s a number that stands out," he said. "I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to going that fast. Racing is a team effort, and my dad’s team definitely had things figured out."

Chase gets his chance to figure out Talladega Superspeedway for the first time in the Aaron’s 312.

Chase is running this year’s full Nationwide Series schedule for the JR Motorsports team co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Nearly every week brings a new learning experience. And, one of the biggest will take place on Talladega’s 2.66-mile tri-oval.

"I’m excited about it," Chase said, recalling February’s season-opening event at Daytona International Speedway. "Daytona was my first superspeedway, and Talladega is a little wider, so it can get even racier here at times. The aero side is the biggest thing, making sure your car is balanced correctly and making sure you’re good around other cars.

"I’m just trying to understand the draft. There are a few tricks and things you can do to manipulate it to your favor. There were a few things I learned at Daytona, and hopefully they’ll help us here at Talladega."

In many ways, Chase has been preparing for this season his entire life. As a youngster, he went to school during the week then joined his father at the race track most weekends. It all seemed so natural to him, and he simply assumed that a racing career was in his future.

"I’ve never wanted to do anything else," Chase said. "It’s something I’ve always enjoyed being around. I’ve never really had any interest in anything else."

In 2010, Chase competed in the Pro Cup Series at age 14. Two years in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East followed. Last year he made nine NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts, winning a race in Ontario, Canada. He also made five starts in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, claiming one victory. Along the way, he made Bill Elliott one proud papa.

"Chase has done a whole lot more than I ever expected as far as where he has come to," said Elliott, the 1988 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion and winner of 44 races throughout his career. "He has done exceptionally well. I cannot imagine expecting any better than what he has done … He seemed interested (in racing) as a kid, as much as kids are always interested in what their parents are doing. But, now that I think back about it, he was probably paying more attention than I thought he was."

One person who was paying attention to Chase’s development was Earnhardt Jr., who signed Chase to join Regan Smith—the defending champion of the Aaron’s 312—as JR Motorsports’ full-time Nationwide Series drivers this season. Chase hasn’t disappointed, leading the points battle in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

"Chase seems to have a real good appreciation for his situation," Earnhardt Jr. said. "He has a good respect for people around him. He knows everybody is there to help him. He’s ready to work. I haven’t heard one complaint come out of his mouth about anything he’s asked to do. He has a good personality. He’s likable, marketable. He’s a great kid, a lot better kid than I was. Bill did a great job raising him."

It would seem Chase could get some expert advice about racing at Talladega from his father, considering how well Elliott performed here (two victories, four runner-up finishes and 22 top 10s). But, racing at Talladega — and NASCAR in general — has changed so much over the years that many of the lessons he learned in the sport no longer apply.

"That was a different era, a whole different time of events than what it is today," Elliott said. "The most important thing (at Talladega) is just positioning yourself for the end of the race, which is very difficult to do. You have to put yourself in a position to allow another driver to help you at the end, and then be in the right place when that opportunity becomes available."

While such advice can be beneficial, the best way for Elliott to discover what it takes to be a successful NASCAR driver is by racing week after week.

"As a driver, to be racing all the time and to have it on your mind all the time really helps a lot," he said. "There’s just a lot I still have to learn."

But there is one thing - even at the young age of 18 - he already has learned.

"It doesn’t matter what your last name is," Chase said. "If you don’t get the job done you’re not going to be around very long. It’s up to me now to keep improving and to get the job done on the track."

NASCAR returns to Talladega Superspeedway in 2014 with the Aaron’s Dream Weekend, which is set for May 2-4. The NASCAR Nationwide Series and ARCA Racing Series will take to the track on Saturday, May 3 while NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series machines take the green flag on Sunday, May 4.

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