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Chase wins again

Driver sets records with second victory

POSTED: April 16, 2014 4:00 a.m.
For the Dawson Community News/

In his first trip to the famed Darlington Raceway, 18-year-old Chase Elliott became the youngest winner at the track and the youngest back-to-back winner in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series history.

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Downtown Dawsonville is not typically known for its loud nightlife. Except when there's a NASCAR race on TV and native son Chase Elliott is celebrating in victory lane.

In his first trip to the famed Darlington Raceway, the 18-year-old on Friday night became the track's youngest winner and the youngest back-to-back winner in NASCAR's Nationwide Series history.

The siren atop the world-famous Pool Room once again rang out to celebrate the win that followed Elliott's first career victory a week earlier at Texas Motor Speedway.

"I had a good date tonight, The Lady in Black. It's the best date you could ask for," said the teenager, who missed his senior prom at Kings Ridge Christian School in Alpharetta to run the race in South Carolina.

Elliott, the son of NASCAR legend Bill Elliott of Dawsonville, ran near the front of the pack for most of the 200-mile race. He led a career high 52 of the 174 laps in the VFW Sports Clips Help a Hero 200.

Driving the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro for JR Motorsports, Elliott was in the lead when the final caution came out with seven laps to go.

After a long pit stop and the decision to take on four new tires, Elliott came out in sixth position, behind veteran drivers Elliott Sadler, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth.

Muscling his way toward the front, Elliott took to the outside line and was able to pass Sadler, who had opted for a two-tire change at the caution, for the lead on the last lap.

"I was pretty well committed at that time to try," Elliott said during the press conference after the race. "To roll to the top was the only option I had to try to win the race. With Elliott [Sadler] off [turn] two, he got a little free and opened the outside for me, and that's where I wanted to be."

Elliott is now 13 points ahead of teammate Regan Smith as he contends for the series championship.

The back-to-back wins solidified what team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been saying about the young talent since announcing the partnership with Elliott in January.

"He's got a great, level head, good character and nothing really rattles him. He had his composure and did what he needed to do. That's going to be tough to contend with for many years," Earnhardt said.

"Everything that's he's doing makes sense and yet it's amazing."

While questions about when Elliott plans to move up to NASCAR's elite Sprint Cup series continue to mount, both driver and car owner agree it's too early to even consider.

"I'd like to think we're going to hang on to him for a little bit and try to get him ready for the next level," Earnhardt said. "He's looking like he's ahead of schedule."

Elliott said he hasn't started thinking in that direction.

"I feel like it's way too early on to be worried about that. The biggest thing we can focus on [is] I have a big opportunity right now at JR Motorsports with NAPA Auto Parts and I want to make the very most of that and do the very best for these guys," he said. "If we can do that and do that well, I think the future will figure itself out."

He knows, however, what the next few weeks will hold, including high school graduation on May 17.

"Initially, I really didn't want to go. I really didn't care anything about it," he said. "I just wanted to go race and the more I thought about it ... you don't get to do that twice. I figured it would be a good idea to go and make mom happy. I know she's going to be excited about that one."

NASCAR takes a break this weekend for Easter, but Elliott will return to the track April 25 for the Toyotacare 250 at Richmond International Raceway. Practice is at 1 and 2:30 p.m. April 24 with qualifying at 2 p.m. April 25. The race will air on ESPNEWS.

He will also be in Dawsonville to meet fans and sign autographs from 4 to 5:30 p.m. today at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame. Admission to the museum is free during the autograph session.

 

 

 

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