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From the notebook: Teen son of former champ Elliott getting a shot

February 24, 2011, Dave Rodman,

Teen son of former Cup champion Elliott moving up ranks; Bayne win offers hope

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- For longtime followers of Cup racing, 15-year-old Chase Elliott is the spitting image of his mother, Cindy, but many of his mannerisms reflect his dad, 1988 series champion Bill Elliott.

Despite his youth, Chase Elliott has proven to be very effective racing late-model stock cars, and his development takes a huge step in 2011 thanks to two things, a NASCAR rule change that will allow 15-year-olds to compete in the K&N Pro Series, and a move by Hendrick Motorsports to sign young Elliott to a driver development deal.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance and I just need to go and make the most of it."


"It's taken a few months for it to come together but I'm very excited about this opportunity," Elliott said last weekend at Daytona. "I absolutely thank God every night for the opportunities that's being given and I just got to go and work as hard as I can and whatever comes of that is the best that I can do.

"I don't what to say about it, other than just to thank Mr. Hendrick for this opportunity he's given us. It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance and I just need to go and make the most of it. I'm very excited for the future -- I just have to work hard and everything will be OK."

Elliott's family run team will continue to operate out of its north Georgia base, in Dawsonville, running a variety of late-model events but expanding into the K&N Pro Series East in equipment provided by Hendrick Motorsports.

"The possibility of this [HMS] deal coming together was in the back of our minds," Elliott said. "But the K&N Series lowering its age limit from 16 to 15 [two weeks ago] opened the doors for us to run at a lot of bigger race tracks and have a lot of support from Hendrick. A lot of that stuff wasn't going to begin until next year, but with the age being lowered we're going to be able to have a lot of support from them this year."

While Hendrick's equipment and technical support will be priceless, sponsorship may limit what Elliott can run.

"Our goal is to run as many as we can, and however many that may be, we're not sure [because] we're trying to find some sponsorship for that series," Elliott said. "We'd like to go to as many as we can and make that our main focus."

Maybe the biggest comfort zone for Elliott is he'll race from the same home base.

"It's gonna be the same group of guys I've been working with the past few years out of our shop in Dawsonville," Elliott said. "The backing from Hendrick will be through things like their race cars -- their old Nationwide cars -- their technical support and a lot of their R&D guys.

"Anything they can do to help us out is what we're going to try and look for, but not so much personnel right now because I think we have a great group of guys out of Dawsonville that we can do just as good, with [Hendrick's] race cars and their support."

Locked in times three

Diligence and commitment will pay off this weekend for Sprint Cup owner Bob Jenkins, who struggled mightily to maintain three teams -- funded largely out of his own pocket -- last season in the critical top 35 in the owners' standings.

Jenkins' third car, a No. 38 Ford that this weekend is being driven by Camping World Truck Series championship contender Travis Kvapil, is a guaranteed starter at Phoenix due to a provision in the event's entry blank that calls for the "highest-ranked 35 positions -- in 2010's owners' points -- that are present at the event" being guaranteed a spot.

Roger Penske's No. 77 car, which was fielded in the Daytona 500 by Rusty Wallace Racing, did not enter Phoenix so Jenkins' No. 38, which was 36th in the 2010 owners' points, ostensibly will be a guaranteed starter at Phoenix and through the season's fifth race, at Bristol.

Bayne's valuable perspective

After he won the Daytona 500 in stunning fashion, Trevor Bayne warned everyone not to let the resultant euphoria from his popular victory overwhelm reality, as the Cup Series headed to the season's second race, this weekend at Phoenix.

The stats certainly bear him out. This weekend's event will be the first at PIR for his Wood Brothers Racing team since the penultimate race of the 2008 season -- the last year the Woods raced the full schedule.

A detailed breakdown indicates that if Bayne can finish on the lead lap, or in the top 25, either would be considered a victory for the kid who has three Nationwide Series starts at PIR, with two lead-lap, 14th-place finishes his best results.

In 24 Phoenix races stretching to the 1988 inaugural, the Wood Brothers have only two top-10 finishes, with a best of seventh, in 1995 by Morgan Shepherd. Their No. 21 car has led a lap in only one race, in 1991, when Dale Jarrett was out front for 19 circuits before his engine broke.

In the past 10 years the No. 21 has five lead-lap finishes in 12 starts, with an average start of 32nd and an average finish of 25th. Elliott Sadler had the best finish in that stretch, 10th in 2002. In the same period the No. 21 averaged finishing 2.6 laps behind the leader.

Give me a brake

According to statistics supplied by NASCAR brake systems vendor Brembo, "even though the track is 1 mile long, braking is more like a short track. The brakes used, therefore, are the same as Martinsville and Watkins Glen -- the basic short-track/road-course setup of 6-piston front and 4-piston rear calipers."

According to Brembo's stats "time on the brakes" averages 28 percent of the lap time, as compared to 35 percent at Martinsville, the circuit's most taxing track for brake systems. Brake rotor temperatures run as high as 1,500 degrees and brake pad wear is at its highest because of the lengthy time on the brakes slowing the car while entering the corners.

Brembo's stats indicate the top corner entry speed at about 162 mph and the exit speed at about 99 mph.

Bayne's win gives others hope

David Gilliland's third-place finish in the Daytona 500 was not only his best finish since the 2008 summer race at Infineon Raceway, when he was second, it also was owner Bob Jenkins' first top-10 finish in 191 career starts. Gilliland said the implications of Trevor Bayne's win for the single-car (though affiliated with Roush Fenway Racing) Wood Brothers' team and for his own Front Row Motorsports team were much larger.

"I think it's a credit to NASCAR and the new rules and the new cars and trying to get the rules closer to get teams like us at Front Row Motorsports to have a chance to come out here and be competitive on a track like this," Gilliland said. "A lot of it is the rules, and that's a credit to NASCAR for tightening up the rules and giving us a chance.

"I think [Bayne's] done a great job. He definitely has everybody's respect out there and that's what it takes. It's neat that he won the Daytona 500 and, like Carl [Edwards] said, he's such a great guy, such a nice guy, such an upbeat guy -- I'm glad he won. I wish we could have, obviously, but if we couldn't, it's good for him and the Wood Brothers. They're great people and they deserve it."

Rookie fields expand

Two more drivers have thrown their names into the hat to compete for 2011 rookies of the year in two national tours. Ryan Truex, who has a partial Nationwide Series schedule on tap driving the No. 99 Toyota for Pastrana-Waltrip Racing, will compete with Jennifer Jo Cobb, Timmy Hill and Blake Koch for that award.

Phoenix marks the first event in which all four rookies will be present; and since the entry is short of the full 43 starters, all will race. Cobb failed to qualify at Daytona, Koch and Truex weren't entered and Hill, who turns 18 on Friday, the day practice opens at Phoenix, wasn't eligible.

In the Camping World Truck Series, Chase Mattioli, grandson of Pocono Raceway owners Drs. Joe and Rose Mattioli, has become the 11th contender for that award. His team debuted at Daytona with Chad McCumbee driving, and it'll be a guaranteed starter at Phoenix, running under Cobb's Truck Series number, 10.

Picture this

Hard on the heels of the enormous video screen that Charlotte Motor Speedway's installing on its backstretch, sister track New Hampshire Motor Speedway is calling its $1.2 million Panasonic video scoreboard "one of the best fan enhancements in the 21-year history of NHMS."

The new scoreboard and video system will be in place when NASCAR, with its Cup, Nationwide and several regional tours, returns to New England's largest sports and entertainment facility on July 14-17.

The Panasonic scoreboard has a four-sided video display that stands 80 feet tall, which is 20 feet more than another New England sports venue icon, the CITGO sign at Boston's Fenway Park.

The new scoreboard has three, 32-foot-by-18-foot TV screens on top, providing views of race action and instant replays. Below the video boards will be a scrolling leaderboard with color graphics that give fans running positions and lap times for all 43 drivers, along with race statistics and event information.

McBride signed for Daytona reprise

Country music performer Martina McBride, who presented the national anthem prior to the 53rd Daytona 500, will return to Daytona International Speedway to perform a 60-minute pre-race concert before the July 2 Coke Zero 400.

All fans who purchase a Pre-Race/Sprint FanZone access pass for the Coke Zero 400, in addition to a race ticket (click to order), will be able to view McBride's Coke Zero 400 pre-race show as well as the driver introductions from the grass tri-oval area.