After finishing off a limited Camping World Truck Series/ARCA schedule in 2014, there were a lot of questions surrounding Chase Elliott’s future and what he was going to do in 2015. Then a couple weeks before testing was scheduled at Daytona International Speedway, the pieces came together – JR Motorsports and NAPA Auto Parts partnered up to put Chase Elliott in the No. 9 for the whole season.
It’s hard to believe that now looking back as Chase Elliott stood on the championship stage tonight as the 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series Champion.
“It’s just been a very, very fun road,” Elliott commented. “I feel very fortunate to have not just this year with Greg and with Dale and Kelley and Mr. Hendrick, and just honestly, the best group of people that you could possibly have surrounding you in racing in the past five years that I’ve been short track racing and whatnot. I feel like I’ve had the absolute best possible people there, too, and I feel like all these people along the way have made me look a heck of a lot better than I really am, and they’re the reason we’re up there tonight. It’s been an honor to work with these guys, and not just this year, but all along the way. It’s been fun.”
Being a rookie, expectations weren’t placed for a championship. However, it quickly turned into a possibility as fans watched him claim his first career victory at Texas Motor Speedway, before winning at Darlington Raceway. Elliott also showed the poise and maturity beyond his own age, leading the belief to continue to to grow that it was a possibility.
The success kept coming and it quickly became known that solid top 10s weren’t enough, with Elliott showing frustration after races where he had finished fourth or sixth, and felt that he could finish better. In contrast, he didn’t let the success go to his head as he continued to treat each week as a new week, without letting the success get him off-course. Elliott says that was easy to do, as he knew to always keep things in a honest perspective.
“I know things can go south a heck of a lot faster than they can go good for you, and just because you had a good run on Tuesday, that doesn’t mean you’re going to be any good on Wednesday,” he explained. “You’re happy right now, you might be mad in an hour. So everything can change and go the other way so fast that there’s no need — and getting too up on the ups, and you’ve just got to understand that — I’m sure things are not going to get any easier in the sport. Things are always changing, and you have to be — you just have to, I guess, kind of learn to deal with the ups and downs, and I just try to be honest with it is kind of the way I go about it.”
Though despite the frustrations, and the doubts by some, the pieces then came together as Elliott kept stringing together solid finishes, including a third win at Chicagoland Speedway, before sealing the deal last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. Now Elliott is the only rookie series champion, and the youngest to win the championship at the age of 18.
Elliott will now return to the series in 2015, looking to score another championship and keep improving as a driver, while winning more races and not letting the same people beat him every week.
“Keeping it about as simple as possible, and I think that’s about as simple as it can get,” he commented. “I see things I can improve on personally and stepping up and not letting people out-drive you every week because I feel like that’s happened a lot this year. I’d like to minimize those weekends, and I feel like we have the cars, the teams, the motors, the group of people to go and contend with the best. We’ve just got to put it all together and not talk about it anymore and go do it.”
Notably, as Elliott continues to move forward though, many other young drivers will be looking up to him as they start to follow the same route themselves. In offering advice to those drivers, Elliott keeps the advice simple – be honest with yourself, no matter the situation.
“There may be days where you have to be honest with yourself and in the back of your mind you know you didn’t do something right or know that you could have done a better job,” he said. “And I think you just have to face those issues yourself first and foremost because if you can’t get through it yourself, then it doesn’t matter what people say about you or from a distance or whatever. It’s kind of irrelevant if you can’t face those things personally and kind of get through them on your own. Obviously, you can have help to get through those things or through struggles or things you struggle with, but you’ve got to first and foremost realize that you need to fix something and know that just because you might excel in a certain area doesn’t mean you can’t get any better, and never stay closed minded enough where you’re not open to trying new things. But at the same time having enough confidence in your ability that you are giving it your best shot each week and believe in what you’re telling your guys and how you go about things.”