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16 Year Old Chase Elliott to make ARCA Debut
High Expectations Surround Elliott in ARCA Debut
High Expectations Surround Elliott in ARCA Debut
TOLEDO, OH (March 6, 2012)
TOLEDO, OH (March 6, 2012)- His name alone stirs attention. At 16 years old, Chase Elliott - the son of NASCAR champion Bill Elliott - is a fan favorite wherever he races.
But young Elliott's position on the family tree isn't the only quality keeping him top of mind in motorsports circles these days. With a long list of major accomplishments and success as a Hendrick Motorsports driver, the Dawsonville, Ga. teen has proven a real ability to compete.
Elliott, driving the No. 9 Aaron's Dream Machine/Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet for Bill Elliott Racing, will make his first ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards start Saturday at Mobile International Speedway, which will host ARCA for the first time. Elliott believes he can contend in the second race of ARCA's 60th Anniversary Season.
"I don't really see why there'd be any reason we can't run in the top five or 10," he said last week. "I really feel like we're capable of doing that. Obviously, this will be my first race as a driver and things are going to be different, but I think if we adapt well, I don't see any reason why we can't run inside the top 10."
Elliott's accomplishments are numerous. Both this January and last, he won the pro late model feature at Speedfest, the season opener for the CRA Super Series. Last year, he added the super late model title at the same event.
In 2010, Elliott won another major CRA race, the Winchester 400. Late last season, he secured what he calls the biggest win of his racing career, the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla. In 44 years of the prestigious late model race, Elliott is the youngest winner.
His trophy list extends far beyond those events. In addition, he was named last season's NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Most Popular Driver and earned a High School Player of the Week mention by none other than Sports Illustrated.
Elliott raced last weekend in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West at Phoenix International Raceway, finishing 17th. He drove a full schedule in the eastern division last year, ranking ninth in points with six top-10s in 12 races. He also finished third at Phoenix in the West finale.
His move to an ARCA car for five races this year is the result of his growth plan and, as is common in racing, sponsorship influence. Elliott will also compete in the ARCA Racing Series at New Jersey in July, Berlin (Mich.) and Madison (Wis.) in August, and at Salem (Ind.) in September, according to a Hendrick Motorsports representative.
"It's mostly a thought process between us and Aaron's, our sponsor," he said. "It was just that things worked out with my age, being 16 and not being able to run speedways. That pointed the finger toward short tracks and the road course. We're trying to get our feet wet in ARCA as well as get experience on road courses. We're just trying to do the best with the next step at the age I'm at right now."
One factor playing a role in Elliott's entry at Mobile, though, has to be his history at the race track. He won a late model championship at the track in 2010, earning two wins along the way.
Lance McGrew, a former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crew chief for Hendrick, will lead Elliott's effort at Mobile. McGrew notably led Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin at the Sprint Cup level, and also headed cars for Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon, among others, in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
McGrew's support for Elliott at Mobile will consist of people from the Hendrick shop in Concord, N.C. and Elliott's shop in Dawsonville. Bill Elliott will attend the race, but Chase is uncertain whether or not his father will spot as he did last weekend in Phoenix.
Given his experience at Mobile, Chase Elliott feels qualified to speak to the track's characteristics.
"I think it's going to be an interesting race, for sure," he said. "The cars that I've raced there are light cars, but these ARCA cars are heavy. It's a heavy stock car. We'll see how it goes. I kind of have a feel of what the race track is like. I'm sure there's going to be differences between driving a late model car and driving an ARCA car.
"It's a very unique place, obviously, with no walls except for on the front straightaway. It's different looking, and has a different feel. It's the kind of race track you're not used to seeing. Most places you go, you have the wall to kind of catch you. It's just different. All that plays into the feel of a race track. It's really smooth in (Turns) 3 and 4, and there are a few bumps in 1 and 2."
Whether Elliott earns that top-10 he wants or not is up to him and those around him, but the 16-year-old is confident that he'll be part of a memorable show in ARCA's first trip to the Alabama track.
"I think Rick Crawford's done a really great job promoting the race track and getting ARCA to come over. I think it's going to be a phenomenal race, one that the fans will enjoy."
Practice will begin at 1:30 p.m. Central on Friday, March 9, and will last for three and a half hours. Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell will follow that, starting at 7 p.m.
The 200-lap, 100-mile Mobile ARCA 200 will start at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 10. ARCA Racing Series drivers will appear on the track for an autograph session just before the race, at noon.