Monday, November 29, 2021

Champion Elliot: NASCAR star heads to second Cup championship

PHOENIX (NWN) — Chase Elliott was considered to star during his season as both NASCAR’s defending champion and its most popular driver.

He was not even the top man in his organization.

Beaten all season by Hendrick Motorsports newcomer Kyle Larson, Elliott gets the final shot on Sunday to defend his run as NASCAR champ. Star teammates are trying to emerge as the best in NASCAR this weekend—and earn bragging rights at Hendricks—as they race in the winner-take-all finale for the championship at Phoenix Raceway Huh.

Yes, Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. are also in the Final Four. But who turns out to be the top dog in Hendricks, this year’s winner of 16 races and NASCAR’s most winning team, is one of the more interesting layers of the first sell-out finale since the race in Florida.

Elliott put a lot of expectations on him as the son of a Hall of Fame driver last year, not only to make it his first championship race, but also to give Hendricks his second since Jimmy Johnson’s record-seventh-place finish in 2016. Won the whole thing to earn the first championship. The No. 9 team reached the playoffs late and won three of the last five races, including the Phoenix finals under a format that rewards late-season success.

Hendrick Motorsports won 16 of 35 races this season, nine from Larson in his NASCAR return. Elliott has won two races, and it was team boss Rick Hendricks who used the winning totals this week (Hendricks driver Alex Bowman for four wins; Hamlin for two Gibbs), when Hamlin called Bowman “a hack”. Was.

That would put Larsen up 9-2 over Elliot in Hendrick’s eyes, no? Surely Elliott must be inflicted, who could now lose his Cup reign one day less than a full year as champion.

“There’s definitely been a few races this year where it’s like, ‘Wow, my cheers were louder than Chase.’ It’s really cool,” Larsson told the Associated Press. “Maybe I can beat him at the most popular driver award,” he joked.

But he said because Elliott lives in Georgia, and NASCAR has held mostly one-day shows this season, with little or no match between the teams. Larson said he is yet to form a real off-track relationship with his new partner. Larsen said their paths probably only cross once a month, in hour-long competition meetings where racing is the only conversation.

“I think with Chase, you get what you see. He’s just calm and keeps to himself, and I appreciate that side of him,” Larson told the NWN.

Elliot has been visible a lot over the past two months, refusing to back down in a feud with tough guy Kevin Harvick while rebuking funny one-liners. He got the final move when Harvick knocked himself out of the playoffs as Elliott closed on his bumper, clearly in Harvick’s head, then inspired a kitschy T-shirt line when he called him “My off-season.” And Happy Christmas”.

Just last week, Hamlin criticized Elliot’s crazy fan, and Elliot responded with the wrong care about anything Hamlin said. Fans of Awesome Bill were intense as well, and Elliott’s father won the most popular fan vote a record 16 times, until Bill Elliot asked him to come off the ballot after his 2002 victory.

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Chase Elliott is a purist like his father. The code he believes in rewards the best of the best, and if it’s Larson, Elliot knows the No. 5 team has earned it.

“Look, when people go out to race and you do a good job, and you finish the race well, and you don’t make too many mistakes, you should be rewarded for it,” Elliot said. Said who was sitting inside the Phoenix Convention Center. Shaded by a picture of him holding a cup draped from the side of an upstairs building.

“I’m never going to knock anyone behind the wheel, or on a pothole box, or on a pothole road for doing a good job,” he said. “When you do a good deed, you should be rewarded for it, and that’s right too.”

Hendricks described this lineup of Elliott and Larsen, Bowman and William Byrne as the best in the history of Hendricks motorsports. And that spot has had a rough run on the game, with Terry Labonte, Jeff Gordon, and Johnson winning 13 championships over a 25-year period.

But this lineup has gone through a rebuild and Elliott put them back in the game last season after a three-year drought. Larsson has been the last part of Hendricks’ plan, and had there been an internal squabble, the organization would not have carried on throughout the competition, putting all four drivers in the second round of the playoffs and two in the last four.

“Chase is very competitive. He wants to win,” Hendricks said. “But he’s happy for the organization. He never said anything about the fact that he won the championship, and now Kyle is winning several races.

Beyond that, Hendricks said, there’s still a race that will decide it all.

“It all comes down to next Sunday. He’s got to win it,” Hendricks said of Elliott. “He’s got the chance and a good shot at being back-to-back champions.”

Hendricks praised Elliott’s maturity, comparing him to a veteran with twice his six years in the Cup. Elliott, who turns 26 later this month, congratulates Hendricks after every Larsen win and Hendricks said he never “runs into a corner and says, ‘I need him. ” About your opponent from within.

Hendricks has seen it come down on the wire between his drivers first, in the opening fight with Gordon and Labonte, then Gordon and Johnson, and he thinks Elliot has the edge. Hendrick knows Elliot well – he signed him to a development deal when Elliot was 14 – and finds him unflappable, his more outspoken nature over the past two months as no surprise as Elliot “quick”. , “sharp” and “just a super bright”. People.”

“You can’t rattle him. I’ve never seen him get upset about anything,” Hendricks said. “I think he’s ready for another championship here on Sunday.”

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More NWN Auto Racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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