NASCAR Meet-and-Greet: Chase Elliott
Should Chase Elliott take the checkered flag today in the Lilly Diabetes 250 race, it will not be his first trip to victory lane at the Brickyard. His first visit came in 2002 when he was 6 years old.
“[There are] a lot of great pictures to look back on,” Elliott says. “But heck, I was so little then, it’s hard to remember a whole lot from that day.”
Those pictures show a chubby-cheeked Elliott next to his father Bill in the prestigious winner’s circle. The elder Elliott is beaming, having won a signature NASCAR race as part of a late-career renaissance. The son proudly points to his dad’s trophy, his cumbersome hat too big for his tiny head.
Bill has since retired and will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame next year. Chase, now 18, is on a barnstorming rookie campaign in the Nationwide Series—he has won three races and currently sits atop the season point standings.
The significance of a potential win in Indy is not lost on Chase.
“It would mean a lot to me,” he says. “Obviously, I would much rather win the race on Sunday here than the one on Saturday. But we’ll definitely give it our best shot.”
Despite the success and his namesake, Chase carries himself without an air of pretension. Before a press conference Friday, he sat quietly among the reporters who would soon ask him questions about pedigree and pressure. His thumbs lazily poked about his cell phone. His ball cap smothered his unkempt brown hair.
His father was there as well. Chase favors his dad in the looks department. Each has that long, arching nose; protruding ears; and small eyes. In his nasal Georgia twang, Bill described how “special” Indy is, while Chase, in his non-regional diction, spoke to how “cool” it is to run at the Speedway. Both are sincere and vaguely honest in the way professional athletes are at microphones.
If Chase is to win, and the role reversal between father and son made manifest, it’ll take more speed. Chase was just the 13th fastest among 41 drivers during Friday’s practice—not ideal at a track known for passing difficulty.
“It’s all in time,” Bill says. “Whatever happens this weekend, you know, there’s another race, another race, another race, and you’ve just got to kind of put things in perspective.”
For Chase, a win at Indy could hasten his jump to Sprint Cup. Even so, the youngster remains pragmatic about future career moves. “It’s not the fans’ call and not my call on what that happens,” he says. “So for either one of us to speculate doesn’t do either one of us any good.”