Bill Elliott tries to steer son in the right direction
Chase Elliott is two days into his Nationwide Series career, and he already has a secret weapon.
No, it’s not his JR Motorsports race car. And no, it’s not his Hendrick Motorsports engine.
Elliott, 18, has a Sprint Cup champion for his driving coach – and for testing at Daytona International Speedway, a teammate of sorts.
For the last two days, Bill Elliott has tested alongside his son. He’s shaking down the No. 5 Chevy that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will drive in the Drive 4COPD 300 on Feb. 22.
It’s an opportunity Chase has relished.
"I have two great teammates to work off of," Chase Elliott said of his father and Regan Smith. "There’s definitely not a lack of information for me to learn from. I need to make the most of that here and with any other testing would be helpful as well."
The younger Elliott acknowledges that his father doesn’t "pound" the information into him. He may point his son in one direction or another but inevitably allows Chase to "figure things out on (his) own." Elliott believes that’s allowed him to "grow as a racer and as a person."
“Obviously, I want to win as many races as possible. If I can do all that, I think the future will figure itself out.”
The elder Elliott is pragmatic that way. And having the opportunity to test for JR Motorsports in cars identical to Chase’s will enable Bill to provide answers from firsthand experience rather than off assumptions.
"At least when he asks me a question I’m not totally stupid on the answer," Bill Elliott told MRN Radio.
Still, given Elliott’s expertise – particularly on restrictor-plate tracks — he can school his son with the draft. Although Chase tested an ARCA car here last month, this weekend marks the first time he’s drafted in a Nationwide Series car.
For Bill Elliott, "it’s been a lot of fun." After jumping to second on the speed chart following the first day’s session, believe the 58-year-old when he says "it was like I never left." While he still enjoys racing -- and may entertain running a few events in the future – he’s already seen the future, particularly running against Chase.
"He usually kicks my butt," Elliott said. "When it comes time to go, he figures it out. He’s got a learning curve here and I understand that and I think he very much understands that. Having great people behind him like JR Motorsports and NAPA and all the people that have come aboard, it’s very important. Rick Hendrick has been a big part of where we’re at today – and I can’t thank him enough.
"Man, it’s so tough in this day and time to find the right people to put with you to keep things moving in a forward direction, but he’s got a great opportunity here."
And Chase isn’t willing to take this break for granted. For now, he cherishes the chance to drive race cars as he balances his responsibilities off the track. Elliott is finishing his senior year at King’s Ridge Christian High School in Georgia while starting his rookie year in NNS.
Still, despite just nine starts in the truck series, it’s already being speculated that Elliott will advance to the Sprint Cup Series in two years.
"I’m in no rush to get to Cup right now," Elliott said. "This is going to be a big step for me. I need to focus on the right now and not worry about the future too much. I need to focus on how much this opportunity means to me and what I can do to make the most of it. And learn as much as I can at this level.
"Obviously, I want to win as many races as possible. If I can do all that, I think the future will figure itself out."
The first time Chad Boat drafted in a Nationwide Series car, he posted the fastest lap (187.778 mph) on the track – which held through the end of the final test session at Daytona on Sunday.
Prior to this weekend, Boat had never run an NNS car. But his father, former IndyCar driver Billy Boat, is fielding the No. 84 Chevy for his son.
"We’re happy that the car has enough speed to be fast but you also have to know it’s Daytona," Boat said. "We’re not quite where we want to be in single-car speed yet but we’ll go back to the shop and work on it some more.
"I think everyone leaves a little bit of (speed) back in North Carolina and don’t show their full cards here. So we’ll work on it and hopefully come back stronger than we were."
Boat is still waiting for NASCAR to green light his approval in the series. The 21-year-old Phoenix native competed in both the K&N Pro Series East and West tours and 10 ARCA races – including here last February, where Boat finished 10th in his Daytona debut. Dan Derringhoff will serve as Boat’s crew chief.
The only dust-up during practice came compliments of Kyle Larson, who misjudged leaving his pit stall on Sunday morning and ran into the RAB’s generator cart while driver James Buescher was leaning against it.
After Buescher regained his balance, he tweeted:
Hey @KyleLarsonRacin watch out for my generator cart… It's only been parked in the same spot for 2 days…
— James Buescher (@JamesBuescher) January 12, 2014
24: Nationwide Series teams participating in Sunday’s test session.
9: Rookies competing in the NNS test.
56: Laps run by Matt Carter, the most in the fourth and final session. Matt is the son of former Sprint Cup team owner Travis Carter.
Dylan Kwasniewski led morning practice at Daytona International Speedway. His speed of 190.022 mph was the fastest lap of the Nationwide Series test. Prior to this weekend, the 18-year-old Las Vegas native had never competed in any of NASCAR’s top three tours. Although he won both the K&N Pro Series East and West tours, Kwasniewski had just one start in an ARCA car at Kansas Speedway. He won the pole and finished fourth.
"To race on the big-boy track is pretty damn cool," Kwasniewski said. "I just can’t believe I’m driving a Nationwide Series car."
Kwasniewski remains "under observation" by NASCAR as he awaits approval to run in the NNS.