A year ago, Chase Elliott was basking in his first NASCAR Cup Series championship. Today, the 25-year-old driver finds himself second-best on his team at Hendrick Motorsports after his teammate Kyle Larson achieved historic numbers for the 2021 season, including 10 wins, an All-Star race victory, and the Cup title.
Larson’s recipe for success included consistent racing throughout the week on dirt tracks scattered across the country. Unsurprisingly, numerous other NASCAR drivers have started dabbling in the dirt and short-track racing. Elliott also followed his HMS teammate but recently announced he’s making a deviation and following another Kyle (Busch), where he plans on taking his dirt racing to new heights.
Chase Elliott watches Kyle Larson dominate in and out of NASCAR
Chase Elliott couldn’t help but be impressed as his new teammate Kyle Larson came out of the gates fast to start the 2021 Cup Series season, earning his first win just four races in at Las Vegas. Little did he or anyone else know it was the first of many for Larson in what would go down as one of the most impressive seasons in NASCAR history.
What made Larson’s NASCAR success all the more impressive was that it wasn’t limited to NASCAR. He achieved success almost every time he strapped in behind the wheel on a variety of tracks.
He won the Chili Bowl Nationals, the nation’s most prestigious midget car race. He also claimed the title at the Knoxville Nationals, the premier sprint car race in the country, and the Kings Royal, another top event. And he won the Prairie Dirt Classic dirt late model race, among the country’s top events for the World of Outlaws.
Follows Kyle Larson into dirt racing
What Larson accomplished this year outside of NASCAR wasn’t possible in the past because many race teams didn’t want their top talent being distracted or, more importantly, risking injury. But Larson’s success and constantly preaching how racing throughout the week kept him sharp, opened up a lot of eyes, and changed a lot of minds.
Rick Hendrick was someone opposed to such a move in the past. Larson changed that mindset. And now, multiple HMS drivers have added dirt racing to their resumes, including Elliott, who made his debut in January at the Chili Bowl Nationals.
Just last week, Elliott continued his education on the dirt at Placerville Speedway in California with Larson and World of Outlaws sprint car champion Brad Sweet as his teachers. Elliott finished 20th in the Hangtown 100 A-Main race.
Chase Elliott following Kyle Busch’s lead into Nitro Rallycross
While Chase Elliott has recently followed in his teammate’s footsteps on dirt, this week, the 2020 Cup Series champion announced he was following the lead of Kyle Busch for another type of dirt racing in Nitro Rallycross, which features drivers racing on a dirt circuit that includes jumps. Busch made his debut earlier this month in the high-flying racing action and finished just off the podium in fourth place.
Elliott will be competing in the series’ final race of the inaugural season on Dec. 4-5 at The Firm in North Florida.
“I’m really looking forward to racing in Nitro RX at the season finale in Florida,” Elliott said in a release. “I enjoy the challenge of trying out other forms of racing and have recently taken up dirt racing, so getting in a rallycross car is really appealing. Nitro RX is thrilling to watch and from what Travis Pastrana and some of the other drivers have told me, it is just as thrilling to be behind the wheel. I can’t wait.”
Elliott found himself playing second fiddle to Kyle Larson in all of 2021. Now he can say he was first in something. The question is — will Larson follow?