The pressure was on for Chase Elliott as a rookie to fill the shoes of four-time Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 and live up to a prestigious last name. At the season’s end, he did a good job of both.
With a spot in the playoffs, 10 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes, Elliott posted one of the strongest rookie seasons in recent history.
Check out what Elliott has to do in 2017 to improve on his rookie success:
Getty ImagesJared C. Tilton
Avoid the Sophomore Slump
It’s less prevalent in NASCAR than other sports because you don’t have an opposing coach scheming against you, but after such a strong opening season, it’s still easy to slip in Year 2. Elliott needs to come out strong and build off of his 2016 momentum.
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Stay cool in the heat
Elliott looked prime for a win after finishing second at Michigan in June but the following eight races were among his worst of his season. The No. 24 finished outside of the top-30 four times and didn’t post a finish better than 13th during the stretch. It wasn’t until the field returned to Michigan at the end of the summer that Elliott turned his season back in the right direction.
While Elliott still made his way into the playoffs, the new format could put him in a deep hole if he goes through 1/3 of the regular season without running near the front.
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Close the deal
This goes for both the bigger picture and individual race. Elliott came close several times to winning races in 2016 but either had trouble or just fell short. It’s hard to close the deal for the first time in NASCAR but Elliott has the talent and equipment to get it done.
In the bigger picture, Elliott needs to close out stronger in 2017 if he makes it back to the playoffs. He was in perfect position for a deep playoff run and was a front-runner with his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson through the playoffs. The major difference was that Johnson closed the deal with wins and Elliott got caught up in accidents and eliminated from the playoffs.
There are 16 NASCAR Cup Series championships closely associated with Elliott between his father Bill, teammate Jimmie Johnson, team owner Rick Hendrick, and former No. 24 driver Jeff Gordon. That opens up Chase to some of the best guidance among any driver in the sport. He needs to feed off of that information to gain success.
NASCAR via Getty ImagesJonathan Ferrey
Elliott finished in the top-10 47 percent of the time last season. Outside of a handful of races, he was in the top-10 at some point every week. With the added incentive to running up front, Elliott has a great opportunity to rack up some points by being up front during race stages.