Elliott ends 2011 race season on top

For most 16 year olds, the milestone for that special birthday is getting their driver’s license.

For Chase Elliott, it was winning the prestigious Snowball Derby in Pensacola, Fla., on Dec. 4 and being the youngest driver in history to do so. His birthday wish came true.

“It’s what I’ve been looking forward to all year,” Elliott said after winning. “I don’t think I’m ever going to let it (the trophy) go. I thank Aaron’s and Mom and Dad and the grace of God, and I have to thank my team. They made this happen. They stayed calm, fixed the car, and we never gave up. I just can’t believe it.”

Two days later after this win, Elliott visited the Georgia Department of Motor Vehicles and received his driver’s license.

Looking back, Elliott’s season began almost as dramatically as it ended. In February, he signed a multi-year agreement with Hendrick Motorsports. With support from the 10-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship powerhouse, Elliott entered the 2011 racing season with optimism, driving for his family-owned team Bill Elliott Racing.

As the youngest driver to race in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, Elliott earned three top-five finishes and six top-10s in 12 starts as a rookie. He also raced in the K&N Pro Series West event at Phoenix International Raceway in November and earned third-place, which matched his best regional finish to date.

“I thought this season was a big learning curve for me and for all the guys,” Elliott said. “It didn’t go near as well as we had hoped it to, but there at the end, we had a couple of really solid runs. Our best run was definitely out at Phoenix, where we got a third-place finish. It was just a solid race from start to finish. That was a big momentum booster for me moving onto next year. I really feel like we’re going to have a strong run next year.”

In addition to his driving duties in the NASCAR regional touring series events this season, Elliott also drove his No. 9 Chevrolet in 24 late model races and was crowned the Champion Racing Association National Super Late Model champion in November. He also earned eight wins including the Snowball Derby and tallied 21 top-five finishes and 21 top-10s.

A second-generation driver, Elliott developed a love for racing after watching his father Bill Elliott in the Cup Series. Chase Elliott inherited more than his father’s passion, but also his fan appeal, and the youngster won the 2011 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Most Popular Driver award after fans voted a record number of times. Bill Elliott captured the honor of fan-favorite 16 times in the Cup Series.

“It’s awesome,” Chase Elliott said. “Just the support, the amount of votes is what really got me. Not only the votes for me, but there were a lot of guys who got a lot of votes. It’s just cool to know that you have that many supporters who are willing to vote so many times. I mean they didn’t just vote at the beginning, but they voted all the way through. I thought that was really cool. Obviously, a lot of Dad’s followers are supporting me, and I really appreciate that. I feel like I’ve gained some followers on my own, and hopefully I can continue to do that.”

Winning Most Popular Driver wasn’t the only compliment the Dawsonville, Ga., native received this year. In April, he was recognized as Sports Illustrated’s High School Player of the Week.

With the 2012 race season on the horizon, Elliott will look to carry this year’s momentum and is confident knowing he has full support from Hendrick Motorsports.

Elliott’s racing talent and popularity continues to grow, and it doesn’t go unnoticed.

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