NASCAR’s Chase Elliott at only 18 years old was among the fastest drivers at the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) qualifying race and is a team driver for the family affair racing team of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s JR Motorsports and Cup team owner Rick Hendrick. JR Motorsports is co-owned by two children of Dale Earnhardt Sr., seven-time cup champion.
Elliott is the son of NASCAR star driver Bill Elliot. Bill Elliot was the 1988 Cup champion, he won 44 times on the Cup circuit and 16-time winner of the series’ most popular driver award. Is Elliott the younger feeling the pressure of driving in the fueled fumes of history? Chase is embracing the history of his father’s racing by assuming the No. 9 car the number that his father drove from 1977-1991 and 2001-2003.
Chase was not around for his father’s 1977-1991 series but he says he does remember the 2001-2003 series and that’s where he got his liking for the No. 9. JRM co-owner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. raced his grand-fathers car number, No. 8, which raced on the historical short tracks of the Carolinas. Earnhardt, Jr. now drives the No. 88 car which may be a continued nod to his grandfather’s racing days.
Kelly Earnhardt Miller co-owner of JRM said that she is glad to have drivers like Elliott on board and driving their legacy car numbers. Miller states that NASCAR needs to continue to strengthen its historical roots. She believes that team drivers like Elliott will tell the stories throughout the season again and again and that will educate the younger generation about the race. NASCAR looks to 18-year-old Chase Elliott continuing the family affair of racing and bond the historical element to the sport.
But after a 15-car crash at the Feb. 15, 2014 ARCA; some question if Chase Elliott, at 18 years old, is too young to be on the big NASCAR tracks. Elliott is being blamed for taking out Buster Graham in lap 13 of the 80 lap race. Elliott claims he did not bump Graham. Replays of the accident seem to not help the argument either way. The argument of the take-out spread to the crews of the two teams who scuffled in the pit and later in the garage. At one point police were called in to put a stop to a bat wielding team member.
Graham stated that it was too early to be driving that aggressive, referring to Elliott, and that Elliott had a lot of learning to do before racing in the NASCAR big leagues. Frank Kimmel who has an 80 win leader history at ARCA felt that the rookie drivers were coming in too aggressive and that they were too young to know what to do with such a fast car. Kimmel placed second behind ARCA winner Grant Enfinger. Elliott placed 9th at the ARCA race. Dylan Kwasniewski, also 18 years old, with his first ARCA start at Daytona placed 14th. Kwasniewski started in the pole position.
NASCAR officials will have a tough decision to make in coming days as they determine if NASCAR’s family affair 18-year-old driver, Chase Elliott, will be able to debut in next weeks Nationwide Series.
by Anthony Clark