The Victory Lap: Tough 2015 Ahead For Chase Elliott


The Victory Lap takes the important points of each week and offers analysis on how it all happened in addition to predictions on the week to come.

Last week the announcement was made that Chase Elliott will take over the No. 24 car in 2016 and compete for his first Sprint Cup Series championship. This coming just a week after Jeff Gordon announced 2015 will be his final full season in the Sprint Cup Series. In addition, Chase Elliott will run a five race 2015 Sprint Cup Series schedule in the No. 25 NAPA Chevrolet. They are:

  • 3/29 – Martinsville
  • 4/25 – Richmond
  • 5/24 – Charlotte
  • 7/26 – Indianapolis
  • 9/6 – Darlington

Five races doesn’t sound like a lot but they won’t be a walk in a park. Let’s start with Martinsville. NASCAR’s shortest track can cause tempers to boil over and chaos can break out at any instant. Even the most experienced drivers can run into problems at Martinsville. Champions Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski ran into their share of issues last October at the “Paperclip.” None of which were of their own doing. Elliott does have two starts in the Camping World Truck series where he finished sixth and 20th but the truck series race is a shootout compared to a long afternoon of 500 laps.

Elliott’s second race will be at Richmond and is a track that’s been kind to him. He recorded a pair of second place finishes during the 2014 Xfinity Series season. After gaining experience at Richmond and similar tracks like Iowa, expectations will be high. Richmond may be Elliott’s best chance this year at taking home his first Sprint Cup Series trophy.

More from NASCAR Cup Series

Next is Charlotte. Not only Charlotte but the Coca-Cola 600. That’s right, the longest race of the year will be Chase Elliott’s third career Sprint Cup Series start. Elliott’s goal shouldn’t be to win or even a top five finish. His goal should be to survive all 600 miles and learn everything that he can along the way. Going the distance at Charlotte will help build confidence and build a foundation for racing at similar tracks in 2016.

Indianapolis will be another survival race. Elliott has one start in the Xfinity Series where he finished 12th. Indianapolis is a unique track and without experience here or at other flat tracks like Pocono it will be difficult to do anything but learn what he can and move on while keeping the car in one piece. Jeff Gordon will be a big help as a mentor but experience can’t be replaced.

Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Elliott’s final Sprint Cup Series start of the season will occur at Darlington. It’s not a surprise that this is a track most rookies have a hard time getting a handle on. However, Elliott has already won a Xfinity Series race here in his first start by beating the likes of Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Matt Kenseth. However, it would be a stretch to say that Elliott will win in his first Sprint Cup Series start at “The Lady in Black.” The level of competition is much higher and 500 miles at Darlington is grueling. Many drivers say it’s tougher than the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. That being said, if Elliott stays calm and keeps the fenders on the car I don’t see any reason why he couldn’t walk away with a solid top ten finish on Labor Day weekend.

As difficult as this five race schedule may sound there isn’t anyone that’s better prepared for the challenge than Chase Elliott. Throughout his career he has shown patience and just the right amount of aggressiveness at the right times. Patience will again be the key while getting acclimated to racing 500 miles instead of only 300.

Lets not forget that Elliott will also be running a full Xfinity Series schedule this year. A big change on that front will be getting on the same page with his new crew chief Ernie Cope. His former crew chief, Greg Ives, left the organization to work with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Spring Cup Series. However, Cope is one of the best crew chiefs in the business and has experienced a lot of success with Kevin Harvick in the past. I expect he and Elliott to hit it off rather quickly and be a top contender for the 2015 Xfinity Series championship.

How will 2015 play out for Chase Elliott? That’s anyone’s guess. How about a second Xfinity Series championship and a win in the Sprint Cup Series before going full time in 2016? I wouldn’t be surprised.

Aaron Hale is a Staff Writer for on the FanSided Network. Follow us on Twitter @Beyond_The_Flag and “Like” us on Facebook.