Chase Elliott continues to eye the ultimate career breakthrough: a first victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Simultaneously, he embraces the potential significance of that breakthrough happening at Daytona International Speedway, where his father, Bill Elliott, cemented his high-banked stock car legacy in the 1980s.
Chase Elliott, 22-year-old driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, has likewise embraced the 2.5-mile tri-oval itself in his relatively brief career. He has two victories at DIS, one in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, the other in a Duel At DAYTONA qualifying race for the DAYTONA 500. He also has captured two DAYTONA 500 poles, in 2016-17. In 2016, hebecame the youngest driver at the age of 20 years, two months and 17 days to lead the field to the green flag in “The Great American Race.”
“We’ve had some great cars here,” Elliott said Wednesday in Daytona Beach, during a visit to help promote the 60th annual Coke Zero Sugar 400, NASCAR’s traditional midseason/midsummer under-the-lights spectacle, set for the evening of July 7at DIS. Elliott participated in activities at nearby Embry- Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU).
Fittingly, he flew his own plane into town.
Elliott, an experienced pilot despite his age, spent time Wednesday in a state-of-the-art CRJ-200 Regional Jet Flight Training Device – otherwise known as a simulator – alongside Captain Tom Peterson, Canadair Regional Jet Program Manager. It was an adjustment. Elliott, who took his first flying lessons at the age of 12, flies a Conquest II turboprop airplane along with a Robinson R66 helicopter.
“We made three landings,” Elliott announced after emerging from the simulator.
Elliott also visited with ERAU engineering students who proudly showed off a Formula SAE car they built from scratch. Formula SAE is a student design competition organized by SAE International (previously known as the Society of Automotive Engineers, SAE).
From there it was on to the speedway ticket office to meet with Juanita “Lightnin’ ” Epton, a ticket office employee since 1958, who will turn 98 years old in July. Elliott also met and signed autographs for fans gathered outside the office.
Elliott’s father won the DAYTONA 500 in 1985 and ’87 – and the Monster Energy Series championship in 1988. Bill Elliott holds the speedway’s all-time qualifying record of 210.364 mph, set in ’87.
The son has seemed ready to follow that lead – at Daytona and elsewhere. After 91 starts in NASCAR’s premier series he is, remarkably, winless. Adding to the frustration are eight second-place finishes, the highlights of 25 top-five efforts.
“It’s year three now,” he said. “I need to do a better job.”
“I look forward to coming to Daytona every time,” Elliott added. “The July race is one of my favorite weeks. Daytona is actually one of the few [race tracks] I remember [growing up]. I guess with school and everything, Daytona was one of the places I got to come to. It was in the summer, when I was out of school. I was excited about coming down here this week, because this has always been a special place and I enjoy it.”
Daytona International Speedway has designed a special ticket package around Elliott for the Coke Zero Sugar 400. The package, starting at $99 per ticket for adults and $24 for children 12 and under, includes:
· A reserved seating ticket to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on Saturday, July 7
· UNOH Fanzone/Pre-Race access
· 15-minute question-and-answer session with Elliott in a Midway suite
· Autographed Elliott hero card
Tickets for this package are limited.