(WOMR file photo)
As everyone knows Chase Elliott is not quite 19, his birthday is in just a few short weeks, as the 2014 Nationwide Series champion, and most likely the 2014 Rookie of the Year, could Chase already be ready for a Sprint Cup career?
Just ask the winningest driver in Nationwide Series history, Kyle Busch, if he thinks that Elliott is ready to jump to the Sprint Cup level. Busch has stated that there is no doubt in his mind that Chase Elliott is ready for that move.
Even Rick Hendrick, who has Elliott under contract, thinks in some ways Elliott was ready to run at least some Cup races before he earned his first Nationwide win in April.
“I told the guys before he ever ran this year, I said I believe I can put him in the World 600 (at Charlotte), and he’d finish 15th because he’s just that smooth and fast and knows how to use his head,” Hendrick said.
But Hendrick has no room to put Elliott in a Cup car for 2015. And he knows that for a young driver, defending the Nationwide title won’t be a bad thing.
“I think we have got to wait a little bit longer, but he’s really impressed me,” Hendrick said.
So expect Elliott, who turns 19 later this month, to run a full season for JR Motorsports next season as part of the original two-year deal with sponsor NAPA Auto Parts. He also could run a select number of Cup events, a maximum of seven with Hendrick Motorsports but no limit if Hendrick allows him to run for another organization.
The big question to be asked is where will Elliott will race in 2016?
Kasey Kahne’s contract is up after 2015. And Kahne has not really performed to the expectation level that everyone thought would happen when he signed his contract with HMS.
Jeff Gordon hasn’t said when he will retire, but there is sponsorship signed on his car through 2016.
Lastly, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson aren’t going anywhere, any time soon!
“I don’t know what tomorrow brings so I have no idea what the future has in store for myself or our team or whatever,” said Elliott, son of former Cup champion “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville”, Bill Elliott. “The biggest thing is just make the most of what is going on right now and let it figure itself out.
“Me thinking about or worrying about it ain’t going to change it. So the best thing I can do is just focus on what is going on on the racetrack and make sure your mind is there 100 percent each weekend. Hopefully next season we’re able to go and have the same result and championship with some more wins.”
Elliott has three wins this year, including back-to-back victories in April at Texas and Darlington. Not only were those wins against an impressive field that included several Cup drivers, it was also the first time Elliott had raced at those tracks!
“The thing that is so amazing about him is you see him race guys like (Kevin) Harvick and Busch and the best in this series and be at them at tracks he has never been to,” Hendrick said.
“So I think when he gets in a Cup car, he’s not going to have a real steep learning curve. He’s just that smart. He knows when to race, he knows how to race. He’s going to be special. I think he’ll win a lot of championships.”
Earnhardt also thinks Elliott will be immediatley strong in a Cup car, much like Kyle Larson was this year as a rookie. Larson is 17th in the standings.
“He’s got a lot of talent,” Earnhardt said. “He understands how to drive the car. I certainly see him as one of those guys if you give him good cars.”
With glowing recommendations coming from Rick Hendrick, Dale, Jr. and Kyle Busch, it would appear that those who are in the know think that Chase can jump right now into a quality Sprint cup car and be very competitive.
I would very strongly agree with those people. After all, Elliott is the first driver in NASCAR history to win the both the Rookie of The Year and the Nationwide championship in the same year!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!