Following a stellar championship season, Chase Elliott returns behind the wheel of the No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet to chase after another championship.
Looking Back at 2014:
Following a solid limited schedule in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Elliott made the move up to the NASCAR XFINITY Series. After posting a 15th place finish at Daytona International Speedway, the young man quickly began to rip off top-10s in the following races, impressing fans at every turn. The combination of running up front and keeping himself within contention paid off in the sixth race of the year as he took home the victory at Texas Motor Speedway. Though, more impressively, he came back the following week and won at one of NASCAR’s toughest tracks – Darlington Raceway. He also didn’t do it in simple fashion, as he restarted sixth on a late restart with four fresh tires, making his way back to the front.
The victories allowed Elliott to jump into the series points lead, making everyone aware that there was a strong possibility that a rookie could win the series championship. The positive momentum carried through the rest of the year, as there were some hiccups, but nothing that threw him off-course. He would score a third win on the season at Chicagoland Speedway en route to being crowned the championship. His championship set the record for the only driver to do so as a rookie, and the youngest series champion.
Elliott has proven that he has a lot of talent with each move up the racing ladder, and this season assured that in the eyes of fans who weren’t aware prior.
Looking Ahead For 2015
As mentioned, Elliott will once again be running the full schedule. He enters the season as the championship favourite and if he pulls off the same string of consistency, then he could joins the likes of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. as back-to-back champions.
If there’s any snags in the future, it’s the fact that he will have a new crew chief. Greg Ives will move up to the Sprint Cup Series to work with Earnhardt, resulting in Elliott being partnered with Ernie Cope. Cope is a veteran crew chief and has led drivers to victories in the past, notably Kasey Kahne and Kevin Harvick last year with JR Motorsports. If the pair are able to click and have a good relationship, look for last year’s success to be repeated, if not improved on with more wins.
The only snag in Elliott as a driver is he can be hard on himself if he does not score the victory, heavily criticizing himself for each small mistake. Well it’s a good quality to have because he’s always searching for places to improve, it could also be the downfall as you don’t want to find yourself focusing on one thing and not the whole deal. If anything, that’ll be something to watch moving forward.
Beyond running the full XFINITY Series schedule, Elliott will begin his transition to the Sprint Cup Series, where he is set to drive full-time in 2016. It was announced by Hendrick Motorsports that he will run fives races this season – Martinsville, Richmond, Charlotte, Indianapolis and Darlington. Four of the five races are double headers, and those are certainly not the five easiest races to handle. To see how he approaches those races, runs throughout and finishes will be something to keep an eye on as Rick Hendrick predicted last year that Elliott could finish top-15 in the Coca Cola 600 in his first start.