FORT WORTH, Texas — The guys at the Dawsonville Pool Hall fired up the siren again Friday night. Another Elliott won a NASCAR race.
Chase Elliott, an 18-year-old high school senior from Georgia, overcame a school of Sprint Cup sharks to get his first Nationwide victory and take the season series lead. He won the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 by a handy margin before a turnout of about 64,700 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Elliott is the son of former Cup champion Bill Elliott. The guys at the hometown pool hall would fire up the siren ever time “Awesome Bill From Dawsonville” won during his illustrious NASCAR career. The son gets the same treatment.
“Getting your first win in anything is an honor,” Elliott said. “It’s a great feeling. This one is right there at the top.
“Hopefully they can ring that siren some more this year. That would be really good.”
Like his father, Elliott is studious and fearless. He kept his cool even when thrown in with five Cup regulars for a restart with 23 laps remaining.
“He’s years ahead of guys that age,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose JR Motorsports team includes Elliott. “He’s learning so fast on the fly. He’s learning faster than you can teach him what’s going on.”
In only his sixth career Nationwide start, Elliott became the second-youngest winner in series history. Joey Logano was four months younger when he won in 2008.
The list of trailers spoke to the magnitude of Elliott’s performance. Kyle Busch finished second, followed by Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick and Earnhardt. All are Cup contenders, with Busch, Harvick and Earnhardt headed to the Chase for the Sprint Cup. All had a chance to reel in Elliott and failed.
This marked the second consecutive race in which a young driver got his first Nationwide victory. Larson won at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., two weeks ago. The last time this happened was with Brad Keselowski and Logano, in 2008.
“You hate to lose races, but it’s cool to see some of the younger guys have an opportunity to win races,” Busch said. “When they do, they seem to do it in style.”
The race came down to the final re-start. Harvick had the prime inside spot on the front row, with Elliott on the outside.
Earnhardt said Elliott “kept hassling” Harvick, looking for an opening. Elliott found it with 15 laps remaining. He out-maneuvered Harvick by going to the high sides and getting clear. Once Elliott took the lead, he was gone.
“I went to (Harvick) for a lot of advice this week,” Elliott said. “He gave me a lot of tips this week that helped me out. To pass him for the lead, that’s pretty crazy.”
Busch stalked Elliott to the finish but never had enough muscle to make a move on him.
“He was in a league of his own for about the last 70 laps,” Busch said. “He was just so good.”
James Buescher of Plano stayed on the lead lap throughout and finished 13th. His cousin, Chris Buescher of Ponder, had a more difficult time.
He started from the back of the field because his car did not clear inspection in time to qualify. Buescher worked his way up to 14th on lap 169, when he ran into a jam. Bueescher had no room to escape and rammed into the spinning car of El Paso’s Jamie Dick.
“It had its ups and downs but overall a pretty decent night for us,” James Buescher said. “We fought really loose all night and kept working on it.”