In all the excitement and hooplah surrounding the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup, what has, perhaps, gotten a little lost is Chase Elliott’s NASCAR Nationwide Series title. In case you missed it, Elliott clinched the Nationwide driver championship last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
“I’m honestly in disbelief right now,” Elliott said last weekend. “This is really a dream come true.”
Sure, there’s a championship crowned every year in the Nationwide soon-to-be-Xfinity Series, but this one’s a little more special that those before, and no, not just special to championship winner Elliott.
Elliott’s title run made history on multiple fronts. He’s sure to be officially named series Rookie of the Year soon. With that honor added to the championship one, Elliott will become the first driver in series history to be champion and ROY in the same year. Of course, that’s not official, yet, as the top rookie honor hasn’t been officially presented to him. But how could it not be? He won three races this year, and beyond that, if the Nationwide Series champion is beyond the newcomer ranks, how could he not be the top rookie? It’s so much a given that a lot of folks, including much of the motorsports media, are already talking about Elliott making history with the title and ROY honors in the same year.
He’s also the youngest Nationwide Series champion, ever, at the age of 18. He’ll turn to ripe old (sarcasm) age of 19 later this month. Not only is he the youngest Nationwide champ in history, he’s the youngest driver to ever win a title in any of NASCAR’s national touring series (also including Camping World Truck and Sprint Cup).
Oh, and by the way, Elliott’s recently-claimed title is a first for JR Motorsports.
“On behalf of Chevrolet, congratulations to Chase Elliott and the No. 9 Camaro team on winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Driver’s Championship,” Chevrolet US Vice President of Performance Vehichles and Motorsports Jim Campbell said. “Chase and the crew demonstrated great teamwork and that never-give-up attitude. Congratulations to (car owners) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kelly Earnhardt-Miller, and the entire JR Motorsports organization on this accomplishment.”
Elliott will be looking to defend his title in 2015, returning to the seat of the No. 9 Chevy for JR Motorsports. As a Hendrick Motorsports development driver, he’s also expected to run a handful of Sprint Cup races, here and there, next year for HMS before an expected full-time move to Sprint Cup in 2016.
Over the last decade or so, there have been a few drivers who have seemed to make a move to Cup, perhaps, before they were ready, and as a result, many of them crashed and burned, hypothetically speaking only of course. I’d even venture to say that current Sprint Cup championship contender Joey Logano may have come close to suffering that fate after being rushed up to Cup to fill Tony Stewart’s seat at Joe Gibbs Racing in 2009. Fortunately for Logano, though, he survived that rough patch and came out the other side and is now thriving.
But, really, have there been many newcomers to top-level NASCAR racing in recent years that are still around in competitive rides? There are a few, but not many. Elliott, though, and probably Ryan Blaney look to be the next generation of longterm and successful top level NASCAR drivers, along with Kyle Larson and the Dillon brothers (Austin and Ty). After somewhat of drought when it comes to fresh talent at the Sprint Cup level, it looks like the future is in pretty good shape.
Check out our Chase Elliott gallery (photos courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR):