Even at the age of 13, Chase Elliott has already learned some of the more valuable lessons for a race car driver.
As a rising eighth grade student, the son of racing legend Bill Elliott has already seen firsthand the amount of hard work that goes into having a car ready to race on the weekend. He’s also been able to experience the thrill of victory this season on the Georgia Asphalt Series — twice.
This weekend, the Dawsonville native has the chance to win his third race of the season, and second this year at Lanier National Speedway, in a 100-lap Late Model Race at the track in Braselton.
Racing for most youngsters at this age could be nerve-racking with the added pressure of racing at home in front of a big crowd of family and friends. Not to mention the added paper work that goes into being granted track privileges before he’s old enough to obtain a driver’s license.
However, Elliott has been around the track long enough, at his father’s side studying the inner workings of a race car, to handle the pressure in stride. The young driver is already earning a reputation in the sport as one of the up and comers, and obliges the autograph requests from fans after a race.
"I’m so young that I’m just trying to have fun," Elliott said. "That’s the whole point; to go out there and be able to have fun."
Even with limited experience behind the wheel of a late model car, he’s already had a taste of success this summer. Elliott won two weeks ago at the Watermelon Capital Speedway in Cordele, despite drawing contact from another driver on lap 95 and spinning out. Elliott was back in front after the caution flag came out and held on for victory over the final laps.
Elliott’s first race at Lanier National this season also resulted in a win during a similar 100-lap race. To date, the young driver has three top-10 finishes, four top-20 places and currently sits in 12th place in the ASA Southeast Asphalt Series with 619 points.
Clearly, racing runs deep in this family.
"I’m just so proud of Chase and what he’s been able to do," his mother, Cindy Elliott said. "He races cleanly and always watches out for his safety on the track."
However, along with the success, Elliott has also learned that racing is a rough and tumble sport. Last weekend, Elliott was hit by another racer at Montgomery (Ala.) Motorspeedway in an ASA Southeast Asphalt race. The maneuver by the other driver was deemed intentional by race officials, forcing that racer out of his car for the duration of the night and Elliott out of the race with body damage to his right front suspension.
Still, Elliott doesn’t harbor any hard feelings about the incident, he’s just happy to get back to the track and see how he can run at Lanier.
"The wreck happened on the outside turn and I was running first at the time," Elliott said. "It was just a late-race incident.
"If you race long enough, you’re going to have wrecks, and you just have to be ready to get back in. It can happen to anyone."
Elliott has been behind the wheel since he picked up driving go-carts at age 8 under his father’s supervision on family property in Blue Ridge. Though hesitant to see her son taking up a high-risk sport, Cindy knew there was no stopping his interest of kicking up gravel behind the wheel.
"The first time I saw them at the go-cart track together, I knew there was no way I could come between that," Cindy said. "Racing has been very good to Bill, so I just have to pray for their safety."
Chase’s favorite memory is watching his father pass Rusty Wallace late to win the Brickyard 400 in 2002. Before that, Chase’s memories of his father’s career are somewhat fuzzy.
In the long run, Chase has the same aspirations as his father Bill, who claimed the Winston Cup title in 1988. The next generation hopes to put forth the same dedication to the sport to eventually become one of the top names in the racing. But for right now, Elliott is just trying to have some fun behind the wheel of a car.
"I just want to make it to the top level and be the best I can be," Elliott said.