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Legend's son chases Truck win at The Rock

April 10, 2013, Zack Albert,

The son of a legendary race car driver, Chase Elliott is making a name for himself

The post-race staging area after Saturday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Martinsville Speedway was a smoldering mess of race trucks, almost a receiving line of vehicles with crumpled fenders and used-up brakes. In other words, typical Martinsville.

The No. 94 Chevrolet near the front of the line was no different, mostly straight but with a handful of apparent battle scars. But the driver of the sixth-place truck was far from typical for a rookie.

Chase Elliott, 17, hadn't made a truck series start in his young, budding racing career. Yet here he was after his debut on the fringes of a top-five, fresh-faced and pleased after 250 laps of learning the ropes at one of NASCAR's most difficult tracks.

"He fell way back, kept his head together and did what he needed to do, and we came out of here with a good finish," said Bill Elliott, his father, team owner and the 1988 champion in NASCAR's premier series. "That's where we just need to keep building this program. It's hard enough as-is. Every place he goes is going to be kind of a learning curve."

The younger Elliott's maturation process continues this weekend at Rockingham Speedway, site of Sunday's North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at the Rock presented by Cheerwine -- the series' third race of the season. It's a track he's raced and won on before in other stock-car series, but never in a truck from NASCAR's national circuits.

Even with the boyish expression of a teenager, Elliott still speaks as a driver with bounds of experience. Credit that to a number of seasons driving late model cars up through the ranks and the expert tutelage of his father, a 44-time winner in NASCAR's top tour.

"Same old Rocking-ham. If it hasn't changed in the past 10 years, it's not going to change before next weekend."

-- Chase Elliott

"I've learned a lot from him," Chase Elliott said. "We've done a lot of racing these last four years and we've gone to a lot of different race tracks. I think that's helped more than anything. We've gone to places, I've burned up brakes, we've gotten super-tight, gotten loose, blown right-fronts, blown right-rears. It seems like we've seen a lot of stuff, and I think all that's going to do is help better prepare you for races like this in the truck series.

"This is a very, very competitive series, and I learned a lot about that today. I especially think going into next week at Rockingham, you're going to see some fast times, some fast trucks and good racing, too."

Elliott was a bright spot in a considerably strong youth movement for the series at Martinsville, with two Rookie of the Year candidates -- Jeb Burton and Darrell Wallace Jr. -- leading laps and notching convincing finishes in the top five. Elliott was one of two drivers without rookie candidacy making their first truck start; Erik Jones, 16 -- like Elliott -- took advantage of a new rule allowing drivers younger than 18 to race on tracks the size of Rockingham or smaller, claiming a ninth-place finish.

Bill Elliott scored four victories at Rockingham over the course of his decorated Sprint Cup career, but he acknowledged that there's a limit to the wisdom he can impart on his son.

"I'm in a position now that I've tried to help him and teach him and take him as far as I can," he said. "The rest is going to be circumstances -- getting with the right group of guys and meshing and taking it to the next level. I know he can drive. I know he can do the job, but it's just if everything comes together. The farther you go up the ladder, obviously the harder it gets. That's going to be the next step. … I look at it if we can be competitive, that's the key. We race against a lot of guys that race hard at this deal and if we can keep nibbling at it and keep going and doing what we need to do, that's what we've got to do."

The next steps continue in the North Carolina sandhills, where the mile-long layout of the Rock places a premium on tire management and handling. But the younger Elliott, standing beside his still-warm truck in the Martinsville garage, spoke about the challenge ahead with the perspective of a would-be veteran.

"Same old Rockingham," he said. "If it hasn't changed in the past 10 years, it's not going to change before next weekend."


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