TMS Media Relations | Oct 28, 2014
FORT WORTH, Texas (Oct. 28, 2014) - Nationwide Series championship leader Chase Elliott will be looking to get a step closer to etching his name in the history books when he competes in Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway.
Elliott, the 18-year-old son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, holds a 42-point lead over JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith with three races remaining and returns to the speedway where his first career Nationwide Series victory came in April.
Heading into the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge (ESPN2, 2:30 p.m. CT), Elliott is in line to become the youngest driver to win the series championship in NASCAR’s three top-tier series (Sprint Cup, Nationwide, Camping World Truck Series) and also vying to be the first rookie champ since the Nationwide Series started as the secondary NASCAR series in 1982. On top of that, JR Motorsports, in its 10th year of operation, has never won a title, either.
"I just try to keep it as simple as possible and keep it as stress free you can and take it a week at a time," Elliott said. "I put a lot of emphasis on that, and that's just the truth. You've got to take it a week at a time and try to just compete for wins. I think that's the best way to go about it. Hopefully we're still in the hunt when it counts and we can battle to the end."
However, as the rookie approaches what could be his first NASCAR championship, Elliott is not letting the thoughts of winning the title in historic fashion sink in just yet.
"I've been trying to enjoy it, but at the same time you've got to be ready and stay focused throughout and realize anything can happen," Elliott added. "It's certainly not over until it's over and you don't want to get ahead of yourself, I think that's the biggest thing."
Elliott also has a chance to make more history should he hold on to the points lead over the final three races. If he can secure the title, he and Bill would join a select number of father-son duos that have had the father win the Sprint Cup title and the son claim the Nationwide Series crown.
David Pearson won the Cup title in 1966, ’68 and ’69 while his son, Larry, won the Nationwide Series in 1986 and ‘87. Dale Earnhardt Sr. won seven Cup crowns while Dale Jr. has two Nationwide championships. Ironically, Elliott’s team, JR Motorsports, is owned by Dale Jr.
In addition to all the NASCAR history that is within his reach, Elliott also is chasing a historical footnote at Texas Motor Speedway. With his win in April’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300, he is looking to become just the second driver in speedway history to sweep both NNS races in the same season. Kyle Busch is the only driver to accomplish the feat, doing so twice (2008, ’09) en route to five consecutive wins.
Elliott owns three victories along with 24 top-10 finishes, including 14 among the top five, in his 30 starts. While the 42-point lead would appear to be insurmountable, he cannot clinch the series title at Texas, but another win or top finish can almost put the finishing touches on it.
And while it would seem to either be his teammate Smith or himself to hoist the series trophy at the season finale in Homestead, Fla., Elliott knows he will have to be at the top of his game to hold off his teammate.
“It’s no different than racing anybody else,” Elliott said. “Regan’s a great teammate, and he’s a good racer, a very smart racer, and he’s helped me a lot this year. Each week, we share information, and that’s great and all, but when the green flag comes out, he’s a competitor. I look at it that way and so does he.”
The win at Texas in April got Elliott rolling, vaulting him from fourth to first in the points standings. In that race, he made a bold move on the high side of Kevin Harvick in the elbow of the frontstretch to take the lead on Lap 185 and then held on for a 2.251-second victory over Kyle Busch in the 200-lap event. With the victory, he became the second-youngest winner in series history at 18 years, 4 months and 8 days.
"It was just a phenomenal night," Elliott said at the time. "It's an honor to race with these (Sprint Cup) guys. Passing (Kevin) Harvick for the lead and holding off Kyle (Busch) at the end was really cool."
He won in his next outing at Darlington and then at Chicago in July for his third victory of the season that allowed him to regain the points lead. Since then, he has reeled off 11 consecutive top-10 finishes to solidify his lead. The series, however, returns from its longest layoff, one that will reach 21 days in between that race and the one here in Texas.
"These two off weeks are important," Elliott said. "I think a lot can be gained or lost if you are not careful in these two off weeks. That's a lot of time guys have at the shop to massage on things and rebuild three race cars for these final three races of the season. So we need to make sure we do our part on that end at the shop."
Tickets for the O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge are available by contacting the Texas Motor Speedway ticket office at (817) 215-8500 or by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com.