Chase Elliott didn’t need luck on his side to score the championship in the NASCAR Cup Series. Besides possessing maturity and driving skills far beyond his age, he happens to represent one of the best-funded organizations on the circuit.
On top of that, Elliott had an eerie bit of history on his side when he fired up the Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 Chevy Camaro at Phoenix Raceway.
Chase Elliott was an emerging star a decade ago
Chase Elliott grew up in a racing family, so it wasn’t shocking to see him competing in the X-1R Pro Cup Series in 2010 at the age of 14. Over two seasons, he finished in the top 10 in all but one of his 11 races, establishing the credentials that would earn him a driver-development contract with Hendrick Motorsports in 2011. That was heady stuff considering that Jimmie Johnson had just captured his fifth straight NASCAR Cup Series championship for the organization.
By the time he turned 16, Elliott was competing in the ARCA Series, where he’d post 11 top-10 finishes in 12 starts over three years, in the process becoming the youngest (17 years old) ever to win a race.
Rick Hendrick entered Elliott in the NASCAR Truck Series in 2013, and he rewarded the organization’s faith in him by winning a race and finishing in the top five in five of his nine starts. It earned him a full-time spot in the Xfinity Series the following two seasons, and he won four races. More significantly, he earned the series championship as an 18-year-old rookie to score a first for any of the major NASCAR circuits.
Chase Elliott worked his way to the top in the NASCAR Cup Series
With credentials like that at the start of his career, it was inevitable that Chase Elliott was going to earn a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2016 at the age of 20. The car that Hendrick Motorsports gave him was none other than the No. 24 Chevy of Jeff Gordon, the winner of four season championships from 1995-2001.
Elliott scored a couple of pole positions in his rookie season, but it wasn’t until career start No. 99 that he took a checkered flag, winning on the Watkins Glen road course in 2018 after switching to the No. 9 car – his father’s number – at the start of the season. Two more victories followed that season on his way to sixth place in the point standings.
Elliott won three more times in 2019, and then it all came together this year. In a season disrupted by the coronavirus, Elliott won five races and finished in the top five in 10 more. Kevin Harvick would win nine times over the course of the season, but Elliott won when it mattered most – namely three of the final five races.
The championship seemed destined to happen
Hendrick Motorsports had never gone more than three straight years without a NASCAR Cup Series season championship since Jimmie Johnson won the first of his seven in 2006. Chase Elliott’s victory in Phoenix on Nov. 8 kept the drought from reaching four.
It turns out the victory was inevitable because it was 32 years in the making.
Bill Elliott won 44 races in a NASCAR Cup Series career that spanned 1975 to 2012. He finished in the top four of the point standings five straight seasons beginning in 1983 but couldn’t capture a championship until 1988.
For sports nostalgia buffs, 1988 happened to be the year that both the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Dodgers won world championships. It was also the year that former Indy 500 winner Danny Sullivan captured the CART championship driving the No. 9 car. In non-sports news, a two-term vice president won election to the White House.
Fast-forward to 2020:
- The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Dodgers won world championships.
- Former Indy 500 champ Scott Dixon won the IndyCar crown in the No. 9 car.
- A two-term vice president won election to the White House.
The NASCAR Cup Series champion in 1988 was Bill Elliott in the No. 9 Chevrolet.
This year’s winner: Chase Elliott in the No. 9 Chevrolet.