High school is difficult; the struggle of balancing academics, self-discovery, friends, and sleep weighs heavy on the adolescent mind. Whether you’re an upperclassman now or a few decades removed, you understand the pressure.
Imagine adding racing and maintaining a professional reputation on top of all that jazz. Chase Elliott lives it, and he is wise beyond his seventeen years.
“Racing is my priority right now,” Elliott stated over the phone. “It’s definitely stressful, but I’m 110% focused [on racing].”
He attempts to wrangle that stress by getting his homework done before the weekends. “If I can stay on top of things before I leave to go racing, it helps.” Saying that you only go through high school once, Elliott still relishes his Junior year at a private school in Georgia. “I still get that full high school experience. I’ve missed a lot of school, but my teachers are pretty lenient. If I get my work done, they’re okay [with me missing school due to racing].”
The balancing act can be done, but, as soon as he gets to the track, it’s go time.
With help from current Cup owner and personal friend James Finch, the young talent was soon pushed under Rick Hendrick’s microscope. Soon, in early 2011, he was signed to Hendrick Motorsports as a development driver. He is currently set to compete in seven more NCWTS races, the next one at Dover.
In his first two bouts with Truck series regulars, Elliott has scored two top-ten finishes. It hasn’t been an easy transition, however. “The hardest parts are getting use to the pit stops, strategy, and managing tires,” he said.
However, when talking about expectations, Elliott doesn’t dream small. “My expectations are . . .well, I don’t see why we can’t run inside the top ten. We got the team, and we are capable of winning a race . . .and there is always room for improvement.”
There is an air of confidence that surrounds his statements, one that shows how dedicated this young man is, one that undeniably makes you believe every word he says. Mixed with that certainty is a sense of modesty. This is something he shares with his racing idol, Jimmie Johnson.
“[Johnson] has achieved a lot of success in a short amount of time. He got to the top very, very, quick. He’s a very good guy, always been nice.” Other Cup drivers he looks up to are Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart, praising them the same way.
Of course, another idol he has is none other than his father, NASCAR champion and two-time Daytona 500 winner Bill Elliott. His advice is the reason why: “Any time we go to a track he has a history at, he has a lot of input, a lot of stories.”
A “very blessed” young driver, he is more focused on the now than you could ever imagine. When asked about where he sees himself in five years, he laughed and answered, “I don’t know . . .I take it a race at a time, focus a race at a time. I just look forward to the next race and go.”
With an agenda filled with schoolwork and practice sessions, Elliott handles the pressure with solid humility seen in few. There is no doubt we could have a future champion on our hands, but don’t tell the him.
He’s taking it a race at a time, you know.