NASCAR Darlington Notebook: Chase Elliott Gaining Valuable Experience In Sprint Cup

(NASCAR Wire Service)

Reid Spencer ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Chase Elliott (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Chase Elliott (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

DARLINGTON, S.C. – Chase Elliott is cramming a wealth of experience into five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts this season.

As he prepares to succeed Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet next year, Elliott has run two short tracks (Martinsville and Richmond), a 1.5-mile intermediate speedway with the standard 2015 rules package (Charlotte), and the first of NASCAR’s two events featuring a high-drag aerodynamic package (Indianapolis).

On Sunday at Darlington, where he won last year’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race in his maiden voyage at the Lady in Black, Elliott will get his first competitive experience with the low-downforce package first run at Kentucky in July.

As NASCAR continues to mull possible directions for Sprint Cup competition rules in 2016, Elliott considers himself fortunate to have sampled the full range of options.

“I’m excited about that,” Elliott said about the chance to race the low-downforce package, pending his ability to qualify for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 (Sunday, 7 p.m. ET on NBC). “I think more than I have been about the other ones, because as you said we obviously don’t know what is going to happen, but if that is going to be the move for next year we have been fortunate to drive the normal package, the high downforce package and then this weekend hopefully we can get in the show and run the low downforce.

“If that’s the direction they go, I think that will be great. I think it’s very important to have a race under your belt with that package. I think the cars are going to drive a lot different than they did at the other races that I’ve run. From what I’ve seen watching Kentucky on TV, it seemed like the cars were handling different, and watching practice and stuff, guys went about the race track differently. I definitely think that is huge to have this weekend in that configuration, and hopefully (that will) help us moving forward.”


Which organization has been best at adapting to the changing competition packages this season?

The question isn’t open to argument.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch won with the low-downforce configuration at Kentucky and with the high-drag package at Indianapolis. Teammate Matt Kenseth took the checkered flag in the high-drag aero package at Michigan.

So it’s no wonder Kenseth is looking forward to Sunday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington with keen anticipation, even though Kentucky and Darlington are far from similar racing venues.

“You know, Kentucky and here are just such different race tracks, so I don’t know that you can really compare,” Kenseth said. “They brought a different tire, way different surface, way different racing style here than there is at Kentucky. Obviously, the groove is much narrower.

“So I think that’s really, really difficult to compare. We all had really good cars at Kentucky – I think all four of us finished in the top five, if I’m not mistaken (Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Kenseth were third through fifth, respectively). I felt like we were all pretty competitive there, and hopefully we can all be competitive here.”


Voting for the 2015 NMPA Sprint Most Popular Driver award will open Sunday, Sept. 6, the National Motorsports Press Association and Sprint announced on Saturday.

The NMPA Sprint Most Popular Driver award is the only major NASCAR award determined solely by fan vote.

The polling period will open at 12:01 a.m. ET Sunday and run through 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday, Nov. 22. Fans can visit to cast their vote for this year’s award. Votes can also be cast via the NASCAR Mobile application.

Since the award’s inception in 1953, 19 drivers have been honored. NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott has won the award more than any other driver (16 times). Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been voted most popular driver for the last 12 years.

Voting is limited to one vote per person per email address per day. Fans are encouraged to share their votes on Facebook and Twitter. The official Twitter hashtag for the NMPA Sprint Most Popular Driver Award is #SprintMPD.

Eligible drivers for the award are those who have declared to compete for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

“The Most Popular Driver Award is one of the NMPA’s most significant awards, and I’m very pleased to partner with Sprint again this year,” said NMPA President Brian Nelson. “We expect the 2015 vote to be one of the biggest yet.”

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