As Chase Elliott got set to take the green flag for the DRIVE4COPD 300, there was no doubt that a lot of people had their eyes on the rookie at Daytona. After all, he is the son of NASCAR legend Bill Elliott.
Elliott did a solid job at Daytona, though, as he finished 15th in the season opener.
“I’m very satisfied that I was able to bring my NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevy home clean,” he commented post-race. “This place is so easy to make a mistake and get sucked up by the guy on the outside of you that it eventually costs your team dearly.
“I’ve learned a lot of useful information this weekend to help guide me through the 2014 season. My crew chief, Greg, did an excellent job of providing positive reinforcement throughout the race. I’m just happy to be a part of such a great organization and ready to get on to Phoenix next week.”
As the year continues, the pressure will continue to be on Elliott as many people are expecting a lot of success from him based on his success coming up through the ranks.
“It’s easy to look at everybody and listen to what everybody says and get caught up in that, but for me I try to look past it,” Elliott said last month. “I don’t really foresee any more pressure on me than there’s ever been. I try to, like I said, try to look past that and just focus on the task at hand and try to get the job done.”
Elliott’s car owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. understands the pressure will be there and says that Elliott will be under the microscope due to the alignment with JR Motorsports and Hendrick Motorsports. Many people are expecting Elliott to move up to the Sprint Cup Series in a couple of years and replace Jeff Gordon.
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During his media availability, Earnhardt used the ARCA race as an example for what we can expect in regards to the microscope this year. Near the beginning of the race, Elliott made slight contact with Buster Graham, triggering a multi-car incident.
“The guy that spun out – everything him had some influence on him losing control of his car. Chase had no intention of spinning the guy out. I don’t think he even thinks he did it,” Earnhardt Jr. commented. ““And maybe you could argue that he didn’t spin the guy out. But just the way the air works, that guy got tight and put a lot of wheel of wheel in his car and Chase was right up on him. If he didn’t hit him, he was an inch off of him, and that’s all it took. I’ve done the same thing.”
Though as the situations happen, Elliott will have Earnhardt to lean on for advice as Earnhardt has been faced the similar situation, everybody expecting him to win races and championships just as his father did. Earnhardt commented that he made a similar mistake himself in the Nationwide Series back in 1999.
“We were out there practicing and was running down the front straightaway drafting with Jeff Burton, Dick Trickle and a couple of other people,” Earnhardt recalled. “Michael Waltrip pulled out on the track and he was blending up on the track, and I had a run on somebody and pulled out to make a pass. I was basically going three wide in the middle. Michael was about 50 mile-an-hour slower than we were. Just going by Michael that fast blew my car up into the guy beside me, and we all wrecked; about 10 cars in practice. Jeff Burton and Dick Trickle were both in my garage in 10 minutes trying to chew my butt.”
As Elliott faces situations of that similar nature, Earnhardt and those around him see the 18-year-old handling them well, in taking responsibility for his actions and learning from them to not make the same mistake again.
“He doesn’t get excited. He doesn’t bad mouth; he doesn’t point fingers and say ‘It’s that guy’s fault’ or ‘It wasn’t my fault’,” Earnhardt commented. “He just has a real level head and open mind about things, and I like that about him. I think that is going to benefit him as he is going through these growing pains, and trying to process everything happening to him.”