There was a time in auto racing in which drivers like Bill Elliott didn’t even run major races until they were 18 years old.
Chase Elliott is part of a group changing that. And no matter how far he winds up climbing the NASCAR ladder, he will long be remembered for what he did before he turned 18, the current minimum age to compete full-time in a major NASCAR series.
Elliott, now 17, has won a Camping World Truck Series race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in September in just his sixth start in the series. He’s won in NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series and in the ARCA series.
But it’s in Super Late Model racing where he’s had some of his greatest successes. With his win on Saturday in the All-American 400 at historic Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, Tenn., he’s now won all four of the races generally considered to be the majors in short-track asphalt racing. Earlier he won the Winchester 400 at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway in 2010, the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., in 2011, and the World Crown 300 at his home track, Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga., last year.
Elliott’s win at Nashville came after he won the pole, but had to start in the rear because of changes made to his car after qualifying.
Elliott’s crew, led by veteran racer and crew chief Ricky Turner, discovered a broken rear track bar on his Rocky Ridge Custom Trucks /Hendrickcars.com car, and the repairs put him 36th for the start of the finale for the inaugural
season of the Southern Super Series.
Turner and Elliott figured to use pit strategy and tire management, important factors as teams were allowed just six fresh tires for the 300-lap run, to help them move forward.
Elliott was able to gain track position by running the tires he started the race on until Lap 149 gradually moving up the field, when he pitted from the fourth position under caution for two right-side tires and adjustments.
Elliott remained on the track during that caution period, but stopped for four tires and fuel during a caution period at Lap 223. He lined up 21st for the restart, and had moved all the way to 10th by the time the next yellow flag flew at Lap 248. Ten laps later he was in third place, and with 30 laps remaining he took a lead he would not relinquish.He restarted 19th but had worked his way to second when the caution flag flew on Lap 201 and was the fastest car on the track just before that caution.
Elliott said winning the 400 was especially sweet given the fact that he came so close to winning the classic three years ago when he came up short in a late-race duel with fellow Georgian T.J. Reaid.
“The bad thing was I was so close here back in 2010,” he said. ”I had a really good race with T.J. and just came up a little bit short.
“To come back and get the job done means a ton to me and my family. We put so much effort into this, and it’s great for it to pay off.”