Chase Elliott And NASCAR’s Future Are Tied Together


Sitting sixth in the point standings as a rookie, Chase Elliott looks to be the guy to carry NASCAR into the future.

With ticket sales and TV viewership decreasing year after year, it’s safe to say that NASCAR is in dire need of a bolt of energy. Luckily for them, rookie Chase Elliott looks to be everything he was supposed to be, and then some. Having watched NASCAR for over 18 years, it’s pretty safe to say that we haven’t had a great rookie season since Denny Hamlin back in 2006.

Sure, we’ve had drivers come up from the Busch/Nationwide series that were supposed to be the next big thing (Ricky Stenhouse, Trevor Bayne, Danica Patrick to name a few), but none have them have exactly panned out. Jeff Gordon’s retirement last season was just the start of the popular drivers retiring, with Stewart leaving after this season, along with Earnhardt Jr., Johnson, and others stating their desire to retire in the coming years. Once these guys retire, that leaves NASCAR with a severe lack of star power.

Enter Chase Elliott, son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott. The 20 year old phenom quickly rose to stardom after winning the Nationwide Series championship as a rookie in 2014. Only 18 years old at the time, many saw Elliott as the future of NASCAR, and he was expected to take over for Jeff Gordon after his eventual retirement. Just one year later, Elliott was named the successor to Gordon for the 2016 season, a quicker promotion than originally planned.

Despite the hype, there were many people who were skeptic of his ability to transfer his talent up to the Sprint Cup level. Past Nationwide/Busch series champ Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was supposed to become the next great driver, but he has had limited success in his three plus seasons with Roush Fenway racing, generating doubt that Elliott could remain successful up in the Sprint Cup Series.

Elliott quickly dismissed the doubters by winning the pole position for the Daytona 500, as the Hendrick Motorsports #24 led the field to the green. Although he would go on to finish 38th after

Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

a crash on lap 18, Elliott showed that he could hang with the big boys of NASCAR. Many of NASCAR’s top drivers have voiced their praise for Elliott, remarking in his maturity and skill for only being 20 years old.

Each week Elliott seems to get better and better, as he is now a constant front-runner week in and week out. Through 17 races, Elliott has 11 top tens, and currently sits sixth in the point standings. He also finished seventh in the 2016 All Star race after being voted in by the fans, proving that his popularity is gaining with the NASCAR fan base.

Prior to the season, it would have been difficult to judge Elliott’s popularity with the NASCAR fan base. Taking over a legendary car number makes the situation a bit difficult (ask Austin Dillon), but it seems the majority of Jeff Gordon fans have embraced Elliott as a true successor to the #24.

His merchandise sales are up there with the likes of Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, and the other top drivers, and it’s not a rarity to see new #24 NAPA gear at the track on race day. He is also all over commercials for NAPA and Mountain Dew, and has made guest appearances on TV shows such as CMT’s Dude Perfect. For a rookie, this type of exposure is quite rare, but Elliott makes the most of it, as he is already one of NASCAR’s most popular drivers.

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Hopefully, Chase Elliott’s career is long and successful, and we will have many more young drivers come up to carry the sport into the future. I expect Elliott to score his first career win later this season, with his first championship in the very near future.