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Chase Elliott captures back-to-back Daytona 500 poles
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Full results DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Winning back-to-back Daytona 500 poles is something of a family tradition, as Chase Elliott proved by the skin of his teeth Sunday at Daytona International Speedway . The last driver to take a lap in the second and final round of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying at the 2.5-mile superspeedway, Elliott covered the distance in 46.663 seconds (192.872 mph) to edge Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr . by .002 seconds. The pole was the second straight for Elliott , who led the field to green last year as a Sunoco rookie. It was the third straight for Elliott's crew chief, Alan Gustafson, who won the pole with driver Jeff Gordon in 2015 in Gordon's last year as a full-time driver. With three straight poles as a crew, Gustafson shares a record previously held solely by Ernie Elliott , Chase Elliott 's uncle, who fielded cars driven by former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Bill Elliott , Chase's father. "Everybody at Hendrick Motorsports has done a lot of work this off-season," said Elliott , who claimed the third Coors Light Pole Award of his career, all at restrictor-plate tracks. "This team definitely has a knack for these plate tracks, as they showed with Jeff Gordon and then last year with here and Talladega (where Elliott also won the pole). "But that stuff doesn't just happen by staying the same, as everybody knows. Everyone is always trying to get better and make their cars better and faster, and the engine shop is always finding new things. So I think that's just proof that they're improving with everybody else and taking that next step, which is really impressive. "I'm happy to be a part of it, and hopefully we can run good next Sunday." Elliott and Earnhardt are the only two drivers locked into their starting spots for next Sunday’s 59th running of the "Great American Race" (2 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). They will lead the field to the green flag in both Can-Am Duel 150-mile qualifying races on Thursday night (7 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) -- Elliott in the first Duel, Earnhardt in the second. Earnhardt is racing for the first time since a concussion sidelined him for the final 18 events of the 2016 season. The satisfaction of locking in a front-row starting position tempered his disappointment at missing the pole by the slimmest of margins. "I certainly would have loved to have gotten a pole, but my boss man (Rick Hendrick) is happy," Earnhardt said. "I just talked to him on the phone, and he's got to be thrilled with having his cars up front." Brad Keselowski qualified third at 192.691 mph and will start on the outside of the front row in Thursday night's first Duel. Clint Bowyer , in his first competitive effort in a Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, will start beside Earnhardt in the second Duel after posting the fourth-fastest speed (192.571 mph). With 36 chartered teams knowing they will race next Sunday, six Open entries are vying for the four remaining berths in the Daytona 500 field. Sunday's time trials brought good news for Brendan Gaughan and Elliott Sadler , who know they will race next Sunday as the two fastest qualifiers among the "go-fast-or-go-homers." Conversely, Jeffrey Earnhardt and Timmy Hill , who posted the two slowest times in the field, can race in the 500 only if they are the fastest Open drivers in their respective Duels. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Hooters to sponsor Chase Elliott beginning in 2017
CONCORD, N.C. -- Hooters has joined 12-time NASCAR Cup Series champions Hendrick Motorsports as a primary sponsor of driver Chase Elliott and the No. 24 Chevrolet SS team beginning in 2017. A casual dining establishment with a deep history in NASCAR, Hooters will be a two-race primary sponsor and full-season associate sponsor of the No. 24 team in both 2017 and 2018. The Hooters Chevrolet SS will debut May 7 at Talladega Superspeedway and appear again during the Chase for the NASCAR Cup Nov. 12 at Phoenix International Raceway . Hooters has been a primary sponsor in more than 150 Cup-level races, notably as the full-season sponsor of 1992 premier series champion Alan Kulwicki. That year, Kulwicki won two races and narrowly edged Elliott ’s father, 1989 Cup champion Bill Elliott , by 10 points to win the title. “Twenty-five years after being part of one of the most memorable seasons in NASCAR history, Hooters is excited to support another amazing talent in Chase Elliott and the No. 24 team,” said Carl Sweat, chief marketing officer of Hooters of America LLC. “As the official headquarters of race day, we’re proud that so many NASCAR fans choose to watch the races at Hooters every week while enjoying their favorite wings, ice cold beer and one-of-a-kind Hooters Girl hospitality.” As part of the new relationship, Hooters has launched a full year of promotions, exclusive content and commemorative merchandise for fans at www.hooters.com . Beginning today, fans can register for the chance to win a trip for two to meet Elliott and cheer on the No. 24 team from pit road at the Nov. 12 Phoenix race. Everyone who registers will receive a $5 off certificate toward their next visit to Hooters. For a limited time, the first fans to register can also purchase collectible limited-edition $24 Hooters gift cards commemorating Elliott and the new No. 24 Hooters Chevy. "Hooters started with six people in 1983, and now they’re in 42 states and 28 countries," said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports . "They've grown by focusing on the experience, earning the business of their customers and supporting terrific causes like cancer research and our men and women in uniform. NASCAR fans appreciate those things, and we have an opportunity to do some great work together." In 2016, Elliott earned Cup Series rookie of the year honors after posting 10 top-five finishes, 17 top-10s and two pole positions, including the season-opening Daytona 500 . He is a second-generation NASCAR champion, having won the 2014 XFINITY Series title at just 18 years old. Now 21, the Dawsonville, Georgia, native has already earned six wins, 47 top-fives and 84 top-10s in NASCAR national series competition. "Hooters is a place where I can let down my guard and have a good time," Elliott said. "It means a lot to have them support the No. 24 team, and I can't wait to get behind the wheel of their car. Being on the ground level of introducing a new partner to the Hendrick Motorsports family is going to be a lot of fun. Hooters has a historic place in this sport, and I'm glad they're back. Our entire team is looking forward to making the program a success." Fans are encouraged to use the #Hooters24 hashtag throughout the year to share their excitement and engage via social media.
Elliott hopes Dawsonville Pool Room will make plenty of noise in '17
RELATED: Full Media Tour schedule " Elliott through the years CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- If Chase Elliott has his way, the Dawsonville Pool Room will be making plenty of noise in 2017. The Dawsonville, Georgia, establishment in Elliott's hometown is known for its ear-splitting howl emitted from a siren on the roof. The practice is the same as when his dad, NASCAR Hall of Famer and 1988 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, Bill Elliott won races. The siren notably went off for Chase's back-to-back NASCAR XFINITY Series wins in 2014 -- his first two at that level. "It would be incredible," Elliott told NASCAR.com of scoring his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup win. "I hope the siren still works there at Dawsonville -- that thing hasn't gone off in a long time. Hopefully, we can test it out before too long." MORE: Elliott's storied history with Pool Room If the siren does ring, Elliott may be close enough to hear it. An avid flyer with a pilot's license -- Elliott says if he wasn't a driver he'd be a pilot -- the 21-year-old flies back and forth from the Charlotte area to his home in Georgia during the season. Elliott says "it's good to do your own thing in some ways." "Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) has been supportive and our whole group has," Elliott said of his flying in and out. "As long as you’re willing to put in the work to make it work, I'm going to try and make it work." There were a couple of times last year when it looked like Elliott would drive into Victory Lane in his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie campaign and prompt the siren to go off, but that was not the case. Still, the 2016 Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the sport's top series notched 10 top fives, 17 top 10s, 358 laps led and two runner-up finishes at Michigan International Speedway , in addition to qualifying for the playoffs -- the first rookie along with Chris Buescher to do so since Denny Hamlin in 2006. Having continuity coming into the 2017 season is something not lost on Elliott . In his two years in the XFINITY ranks, he had a different crew chief each season. Gustafson returns to lead Elliott and the No. 24 team for his sophomore season at the top level. "One thing I'm excited about, which I haven't had in the last few years, is having the same crew chief two years in a row. I haven't had that. I really enjoyed working with Alan last year. I think he's one of the best. "Everyone says that about their crew chiefs, but I'm pretty confident saying that. He does a great job and is underrated in what he does and how hard he works in trying to make a race team go." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Elliott : 'Not going to feel bad about beating somebody'
Chase Elliott's qualifying run spoiled a potential pole for the returning Dale Earnhardt Jr., but the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet was just thrilled to be up front.
Elliott earns back-to-back Daytona 500 pole
Chase Elliott edges teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. to earn his second Daytona 500 pole in a row at Daytona International Speedway.
Despite bumps, Elliott's impressed Gordon, father in rookie season
MORE: Buy tickets for Homestead-Miami Championship Weekend Bill Elliott remembers the conversations with his son. "I said 'If you want to race, then we'll go race. But if you want to go hang out with your buddies on Saturday night, then you can do that. It's your choice,' " Elliott recalled recently. Chase Elliott wanted to race. He wanted to race small cars and big cars, on dirt and on asphalt. So he did. He raced and he won and he lost and he learned. And in 2016, two years removed from winning NASCAR's XFINITY Series title, the youngster was handed the keys to his future -- the seat in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet driven at the time by four-time series champion Jeff Gordon . Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) signals the end of the '16 season. Elliott will enter the race 10th in points, having qualified for the championship-determining Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup but falling out of title contention after a difficult second round. There have been "a lot of ups and downs this year," he said. "I think the biggest thing I've seen as I've run throughout this year, and Jeff touched on it as we talked in the offseason, he just kept bragging on this group of guys and how good they were and kept saying, 'Man, you're going to a really good group.' I think you have to see some of those things firsthand to really recognize it and appreciate it and as I've gone through this season I really have. I've got some of the best cars you could have to drive. They make me look a lot better than I am. "Those are the kinds of people you want to be surrounded with if you can do that. I really had nothing to do with the group of people that I was assigned, I was just lucky to fall into place where I did at the time I did. That's been one of my biggest takeaways." "I've had some really good cars to drive and I think having that good relationship with this group and to be able to count on the job that Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) does ... he does an incredible job and doesn't get enough credit; he makes my job as easy as you could have it." Elliott has 10 top fives and 17 top-10 finishes this season and won a pair of poles -- at Daytona's season opener and the unpredictable Talladega. He earned career-best second-place finishes at both Michigan races this year and was third twice in the opening round of the Chase. "I think he's very competitive and in the race car to me he's a veteran," Gordon said. "I know he's beat himself up a few times outside the race car but I like that. That means that second or third is not good enough for him. He's got a bright future." The fact that he was able to qualify for the Chase, Gordon said, wasn't a surprise. Not after Elliott won the XFINITY Series title his first time out while driving for JR Motorsports. Paired with teammates Jimmie Johnson , a six-time series champion, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr ., at HMS, Gordon expected the 20-year-old to excel. "You still never know," Gordon said. "Especially at the Cup level it's very competitive. Not just in the garage level but at Hendrick. To have Jimmie and Kasey and Junior as your teammates, that's going to make you have to step up. But I don't think we would have put him in there if we didn't believe in him. And you know there are going to be some growing pains. I would say there have been far less than I anticipated." Gustafson worked with Kyle Busch , Mark Martin and Gordon at HMS. He said there was never a question of talent when it came to Elliott . But others with talent have come and gone. Younger drivers can go fast but going fast is only part of the equation. Race conditions, passing, altering one's line to adapt to changing track conditions, and the race on an off pit road are additional hurdles to overcome in order to contend. It's what Gustafson refers to as "the art of racing" and said it is something that's "definitely underappreciated" today. "He does that really well," Gustafson said. "Typically in my experience it takes some time to master passing or running in traffic or where you need to move on the track, what you need to do to improve your position. He does a really good job at that. You always can get better -- I think it's something he can learn and change and grow with but I've been pretty impressed with his first year and how he handles all that. "His maturity and mental aptitude and demeanor are pretty far beyond his years. ... Everybody makes mistakes but I think he minimalizes a lot of what you typically see in rookie." LEARNING CURVE Gustafson said Elliott's ability to adapt and digest information quickly when he has struggled in a particular area or at a venue has been impressive. Often, it's the next trip back to that track, or even a year or two, before such improvements bear fruit for a driver. For Elliott , it's sometimes much sooner. Over the course of a weekend in some cases. "It doesn't change through practice but then once he's able to go and digest it, think about it and come back with a game plan ... he attacks it and makes significant improvements," Gustafson said. "It's impressive. I don't know that I've ever worked with a driver that had that ability." The technology available today has been a big help. Elliott will often pour over information gleaned from his teammates while awaiting changes to the car during practice or at day’s end. Where someone brakes in the corner, how fast they pick up the throttle, how much steering they're putting in their car can help when he’s searching for more speed or a better handling ride. And he isn't hesitant to change. The stopwatch doesn't lie, he said. "If the guys have found a way to get you out on the track better for one lap or get you around the race track better for long runs, and that's a proven fact from the stopwatch or tire falloff or whatever data that you can see, then there's no denying that fact," Elliott said. "I think that opens your mind up to try and see what they are doing and how they're going about their job. Amongst our guys or any of the guys in the garage, I just can't see that person X has a car that's that much better than mine. I think you have to recognize that we're in a pretty tight boundary of competition and for you to be way off, well maybe you need to think about how you're driving. Because I know my guys haven't missed it that bad." Gordon, now a FOX NASCAR analyst, says being young or new to the series is a plus; it's easier to absorb the reams of information available without the baggage of preconceived ideas. "You're a sponge," he said, "so you can adapt quickly. "As a team we have to take advantage of that because the longer you go, the harder it is to do that. I think that's one of the things that's made Jimmie so great over all the years is he's been able to do that as well or better than anybody that I know. Someone like Chase, that's as talented and young as he is, I see that in him. That's why I think they've performed consistently very well." Bill Elliott says he tries to look at his son's progression as a driver and not as his son. Either way, he's been impressed with what he's seen. "I think he's done a great job from a driving standpoint," Elliott said. "I really didn't know ... when you come into these deals and you think 'OK, I'm getting in Jeff Gordon 's car and it's already got a pretty good history to it, a damn good history to it, and what are the expectations for a kid that's come in and only run a handful of Cup races prior to this? I've been very impressed." A FAN FAVORITE The elder Elliott won the series' most popular driver award, overseen by the National Motorsports Press Association, a record 16 times. Earnhardt Jr. has won the award the last 13 years. In fact, the award, which has been presented annually since 1953, has gone to someone named Elliott or Earnhardt every year since 1991. Could the younger Elliott be the next in line? He has quickly developed his own following of younger fans while appealing to those who were fans of his father, the 1988 series champion, and to those who were fans of Gordon and the No. 24 team. Voting for this year's MPD award closes Sunday at 11:59 p.m. ET. ( www.mostpopulardriver.com ) "The fan base that I acquired the years that I ran was just so phenomenal," Bill Elliott said. "They supported me through thick and thin. I'd fall out of races on some days and there would be fans that would tell me, 'We don't care if you never win another race; we're behind you 100 percent.' To have that kind of following ... I think it just had to do with my background, how I got into the sport, I wasn't part of the established group. I worked hard and tried to do things the right way, which I didn't always do that. But I tried really hard to take care of the race fans because I really respected the fans, whether they were pulling for me or the other drivers. "I think Chase has been very good and very gracious with the fans and he's been able to pick up that group, plus Jeff had a strong fan base. When you've got everything else ... being involved with Dale Jr. on the XFINITY Y side got him exposed to a lot of people. Winning that championship the first year and coming back and finishing second last year, there was a lot going on." Chase Elliott says seeing fans wearing the No. 24 gear carrying his likeness and name wasn't something he was expecting as the year got underway. And while the competition side of the sport is where he's focused, he understands the importance of the fans. "They're what makes it go around," he said. "One thing my dad always touched on was if you're having a bad day or not feeling well, not doing too good, you have to recognize that whether there are two people at an event or 2,000, if you make one person’s day then that goes a long way with that person. Coming from him, I think that's a pretty good word of advice and something to help keep things in perspective." He listens. And he learns. Even if it's sometimes hard to tell. "We were in the shop one day and we were working on the Late Model car," Bill Elliott said. "He asked me how to do something and I told him. Then he argued with me and I told him, 'Well, do it your way.' So there you go. "You know how kids are."
Meet Eddie D'Hondt, Chase Elliott's spotter
Editor's note: This is the first in a series of interviews with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series spotters. Eddie D'Hondt, Spotter for Chase Elliott , No. 24, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet HOW DID YOU GET STARTED SPOTTING? "I was the GM at Evernham Motorsports when Bill Elliott was driving. I actually started spotting for Bill -- I guess about 16 years ago. I had been managing teams up until that point. I just sort of fell into it. I used to drive Modifieds. It just worked. I've been doing it ever since." WHAT OTHER DUTIES DO YOU HAVE WITH THE TEAM? "We have a team meeting on Tuesdays, the driver, the crew chief and all the engineers. I have two reports I'm responsible for putting together for that meeting. That takes up most of my Monday, it's a lot of video work and some other technical work, but that's the other part of my job." DO YOU SPOT IN OTHER SERIES? "I spot in every series every weekend. I do 105 races a year; Rolex, Modifieds, Truck, XFINITY , Cup. In depends on the series as far as who I'm spotting for each weekend. I did all of Chase's XFINITY races, Cole Custer 's XFINITY races; I do Ryan Preece when I'm not doing the 88 XFINITY car. I do Cole's Truck races. The Ferrari team in Rolex." HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WITH CHASE? "Just this year. For four or five years I was with Jeff (Gordon); three years with Kyle (Busch) before that." WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST RACE AS A SPOTTER? "It was with Bill . I guess the (2001) Daytona 500 , the race that Dale (Earnhardt) passed away." WHAT'S THE MOST BIZARRE THING YOU'VE SEEN WHILE SPOTTING? "Oh my gosh. I've lived up here all weekend for 16 years so I've seen a lot of stuff. There have been so many things. It's a great vantage point. Every single weekend we get to see a lot of what no one else gets to see." WHAT'S BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE AS A SPOTTER? "Homestead with Jeff last year and (the win at) Martinsville. I'd have to say those two. Jeff was just special. He is a special guy. He got in the trenches with you, he became your friend. You wanted to fight with him. I was working with Kyle Busch when Alan Gustafson (Gordon's crew chief at the time) came and got me, sat down and struck a deal and five years later, here I am." WHAT'S THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF YOUR JOB? "Probably the travel. I’ve been on this circuit since 1996, prior to that I raced on my own. Being away from your family is difficult. Both my boys are working in the garage, so if I want to see them I have to go find them in the garage somewhere. The rest of my family is always home, so that's the hard part." WHAT CURRENT DRIVER WOULD MAKE A GOOD SPOTTER? "That's a good question. Maybe Carl Edwards . He likes to talk." WHICH TRACK IS YOUR FAVORITE? "Bristol and Martinsville. Probably those two. I grew up on the short tracks. The thrill of the short track, anything can happen at any moment. The flow you get into in those races, I enjoy that." WHAT IS ONE THING ABOUT WHAT YOUR JOB ENTAILS THAT THE AVERAGE FAN MIGHT NOT KNOW? "Today, it's become way more intricate than what people realize. We're providing information that we never did before. You have all engineers now on top of all these pit boxes, not guys that grew up short-track racing. These guys are all engineers now. So they talk to the drivers less and it's fallen into our laps now to provide more and more information on things like rubber buildup, lanes that are working, braking, backing up corners. We're talking more about driving than safety. Most of the guys up here, just go down the line, used to drive. They have some kind of wisdom about what it feels line so you're able to talk about it. And the guys that didn't drive have educated themselves. Those guys on the pit boxes, they're looking at data."
McMurray's Darlington scheme honors Bill Elliott
RELATED: Vote now for your favorite Darlington scheme BUY TICKETS: Darlington Jamie McMurray 's No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet will honor Bill Elliott at this year's Southern 500 throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway . Elliott ran the "Mac Tonight" scheme originally in 1997, and the midnight blue car will ride again in the Sept. 4 Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.) The McDonald's scheme harkens back to a McDonald's "Mac Tonight" advertising campaign. "I am excited that McDonald's is bringing back the Mac Tonight paint scheme for this race," McMurray said. "Last year was so much fun to see all the different throwback looks that teams had for the Southern 500 race. I think that Darlington has done a great job to get so many of the teams to participate and have a unique weekend to celebrate the history of NASCAR." RELATED: See all the Darlington throwback paint schemes This year's throwback theme focuses on the era of 1975-84. More than two dozen throwback paint schemes for this year's running of the Bojangles' Southern 500 (Sunday, Sept. 4, 6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR) have been announced. The program launched last season and is expected to continue for the next several seasons. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Bill Elliott finds joy in watching his son's rise
RELATED: From tardy slip to pole-sitter " Gordon gets chills watching No. 24 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The pride on Bill Elliott 's face was unmistakable as he emerged from a small radio interview room Sunday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway . An hour earlier, his 20-year old son, Chase Elliott , had furthered the family's storied name by adding his own remarkable chapter to Daytona 500 record books by winning the pole for Sunday's race. And his dad was visibly moved. The great event's youngest pole-winner ever – by three years – Chase Elliott had just completed a press conference where he was as mindful of realistic expectations for a young rookie in his first Daytona 500 as he was humbled by the historic achievement. RELATED: Relive Chase's Daytona pole, frame-by-frame Chase gets his balanced disposition honestly. His father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott , was never one to give in to the hyperbole through an amazing five-decade NASCAR career that included a Cup championship and 44 wins – including two in the Daytona 500 (1985 and 1987). RELATED: Father-son duos with 'Great American Race' pole awards However, this Sunday afternoon, Bill Elliott was wearing the smile of an extremely proud dad – and willing to share the experience with a couple reporters. As calm and calculating as Bill was during his own racing career, he was almost effusive in the pride and love he felt for his son this day. "I try to tell him, 'Enjoy it,'’" Bill Elliott said, grinning. "Because the problem is, then the years turn into 20 to 30 and to 40, and you wonder where it all went." Bill Elliott and his wife, Cindy, had watched their only son's qualifying laps around the sport's most famous speedway while managing both high hope and tempered expectation. As usual, they stood away from the spotlight, only emerging when Chase had sealed this very big deal. "We were in the shadows – where we usually are – just watching and taking it all in, then we walked onto pit road to celebrate with him," Cindy Elliott said while waiting for her son to complete his media obligations Sunday afternoon. "I guess you could say we just had a big Valentine's gift. We're so excited for him. It's a long week so we're pacing; one day at a time." Some of the reserve and realism that characterized Bill's great career is readily evident in his son as well. While answering questions from the media moments earlier, Chase Elliott came off as a much wiser, more sensible person than someone 20 years old should be. He is noticeably measured, and takes time to think about the questions – and he got a flurry of them Sunday afternoon – before answering. And quite often, as he typically does, Chase delivered an alternate perspective from what people might have anticipated. Although cognizant of the hype, Chase does not give in to the great expectations as he takes over Jeff Gordon ’s famed No. 24 Chevrolet at Hendrick Motorsports . He is simultaneously reverent of Gordon's career achievements and yet realistic about the learning curve he, himself, will endure not only this season, but for several to come. And his father's steady guidance and support is both evident and invaluable. "For some reason, he just thinks this is where he wants to be, and that' s it," Bill Elliott said. "I've told him numerous times, 'You know, if this isn't what you really want to do, you need to find something else. It will chew you up and spit you out.' He says, 'Nope, that's what I want to do.' Since he was a little kid it was, 'Yep, I want to drive a race car.' "Since he was little – four or five years old – he always had his Matchbox cars and run them around on these little tracks, totally focused. He'd sit on the pit box on Sundays and tell [then Elliott's team owner] Ray [Evernham] all this stuff." The Elliotts have been such staunch supporters of their son, and subsequently his biggest cheerleaders – whether Chase was winning the prestigious Snowball Derby late model race as a 16-year old or the 2014 XFINITY Series title as an 18-year old in his first full year of big-time NASCAR competition. They have supported, but they have never pushed. “Watching Chase grow up and watching him race, he was pretty good when we raced go-karts on road courses," Bill Elliott recalled. "Then when he moved up and we ran Bandaleros and Legends and he did well with that. But he really excelled when he got in a late model car. That just seemed to be when the light switch went on. And thereafter, no matter what he got in, the heavier, the bigger the car, the better he got. "I'm very proud today. No matter what today brings and Thursday [Can-Am Duels] brings and next Sunday brings is another piece of the puzzle. … You just have to take Daytona and do the best you can to get through it. You just never know."
Elliott sheds rookie label, battles for Bristol top five
RELATED: Full results from Bristol BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Coming off a career-best Sprint Cup Series finish of fifth at Texas last weekend, Chase Elliott has outdone himself, earning a fourth-place finish in Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway . The 20-year-old qualified 19th for the short track event, Elliott's second-lowest qualifying spot since the start of his rookie season. But that was only motivation for the young rookie to battle his way up through the field. "We started off real slow," Elliott said post-race. "We didn't qualify as well as we'd like to on Friday but I thought we hit on a couple things yesterday in final practice that, fortunately, we carried over to today and were able to kind of run our way up through there." Elliott ran as high as second during Sunday's race, but he didn't get there without a few bumps at "The Last Great Colosseum." The Hendrick Motorsports driver experienced a loose wheel early in the 500-lap event, causing him to come down pit road while the green flag was out. But thanks to his No. 24 pit crew, Elliott didn't fall too far behind. "Hate to have a loose wheel," Elliott said. "But the guys did a good job overcoming that with a fast pit stop under green, only losing two laps, so that was big to keep us in contention there and try to get back on the lead lap. So, definitely a long afternoon, but that was the biggest thing that kept us alive." Despite Elliott's strong finish at Bristol, as well as four other top-10 finishes this season, he's got fellow Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Ryan Blaney to battle with week after week. The No. 21 driver also has been running in the top 10 consistently, with an average finish of 19.2 through eight races ( Elliott's average finish is 15.8). Even though Blaney also had a strong showing at Bristol, running in the top five and top 10 and ultimately finishing 11th, the Wood Brothers Racing driver felt his Ford deserved better. "It was good until the end," Blaney said. "We should have run fifth, easy. ... We had a good race car and got stuck on the bottom for three straight restarts and went backward. That's pretty disappointing when you know you have a top-five race car." For Blaney, the Food City 500 was not the 22-year-old's first go-around at Bristol in the Sprint Cup Series. Blaney made a start in the No. 21 Ford in 2015 for Bristol's fall night race, finishing 22nd. This was Elliott's first Cup Series start at Bristol, a track his NASCAR Hall of Famer father Bill Elliott earned his first short-track victory at in 1988. The younger Elliott's only other short track experience in the Cup Series was his run at Richmond in 2015, where he finished 16th.