LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
Chase Elliott Wins 2014 Nationwide Series Title
By Ben White, special to ERH
For Chase Elliott, being crowned NASCAR’s 2014 Nationwide Series champion serves as one of the greatest triumph to date of an ever prosperous career.
The 18-year-old native of Dawsonville Ga. wheeled the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet to a fifth-place finish at Phoenix International Raceway and became the youngest Nationwide Series champion in NASCAR history.
He clinched the title that year by 52 points over JRM teammate Regan Smith with one race remaining at Homestead-Miami Speedway. JRM scored nine victories that year with Chase logging three of them on speedways at Texas, Darlington and Chicago.
Even though the official championship celebration came a week after clinching the title at Phoenix, Chase joined his father Bill, the 1988 Cup series champion, and mother Cindy for celebratory photos after he exited his car.
“They said just enjoy it,” Chase said that day, relaying his parents advice. “This certainly has not set in by any means…this is a dream come true for me.”
Interestingly, the Elliotts became the fifth father-son duo to win NASCAR national series championships. The others are Lee Petty and Richard Petty, Ned Jarrett and Dale Jarrett, David Pearson and Larry Pearson, and Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Chase also became the first driver in NASCAR history to win a championship and rookie of the year honors in the same season. Not to mention, Chase took top honors in the fan vote for Most Popular Driver, making it a sweep of the top awards at the end of year banquet. Rick Hendrick, co-owner of JR Motorsports along with Earnhardt Jr. and Kelley Earnhardt Miller, was proud to see Chase secure the title in the closing circuits of the 206-lap event.
“This is kind of an unbelievable thing to sit here tonight with Chase winning the championship,” Hendrick said at Homestead. “If somebody told me that a year ago when we didn’t have a sponsor and didn’t know what we were going to do and how many we could run out of our pocket, you look back, and it’s pretty special.”
Now a star in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition with Hendrick Motorsports, Chase smiles when he thinks back to how his 2014 Nationwide Series season came together.
“It was a great year,” Chase said. “I don’t think any of us really expected to go out and win races that early and compete for a championship. But kind of the way all the stars aligned that year, it just worked out really well for us.
“We ran really well at the beginning of the year. We didn’t run as well through the midsection of the season but it was good enough to get the driver’s championship.”
Chase, Smith and Kevin Harvick set out to clinch the owner’s championship in Nationwide Series competition that year but fell short of their goal to team owner Roger Penske.
“The last piece of the puzzle I would have liked to have had is to beat the other guys for the owner’s championship,” Chase said. “That would have been a huge feat, I think, even bigger than what we accomplished. That’s because you had beat the Cup regulars that were coming to race each week, which is pretty cool.”
Chase will forever look back to the 2014 Nationwide Series championship as one of the rewarding accomplishments of his career.