DRIVER: Chase Elliott / No. 24 SunEnergy1 Chevrolet SS
RACE: Talladega 400 (Race 32 of 36)
TRACK: Talladega Superspeedway
DATE: Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016
HONING IN ON THE HEART OF DIXIE: Elliott’s time to shine is now as the Round of 12 competitor looks to keep his championship hopes alive. The rookie is honing in on Talladega and will essentially need to be victorious in the “Heart of Dixie” this Sunday to advance into the Round of 8. In the Chase, Elliott has already led the second-most laps in two of the five races, trailing only six-time series champion and teammate Jimmie Johnson both times. After the halfway point in NASCAR’s 10-race postseason, Elliott has led laps in all but one race and even though the rookie didn’t lead any laps at Dover he still reeled off an impressive third-place result at the Delaware track.
REIGNING ROOKIE: Elliott leads the 2016 Rookie of the Year contender standings heading into Talladega by 61 points over second-place Ryan Blaney and 90 points over third-place Chris Buescher. Elliott has accumulated a total of 285 rookie points this year through the first 31 races. Additionally, Elliott is one of only three rookies to ever make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. He has yet to win his first race, but claims nine top-five showings – the most by a rookie since Carl Edwards scored 13 in 2005.
NO. 24 AT TALLADEGA: The No. 24 team earned its first win at Talladega in 1996 with the Chevrolet piloted by Jeff Gordon. After a rain delay and two red-flag conditions for major incidents, NASCAR halted the race due to darkness and Gordon, who had aptly displayed the art of preservation, was declared the winner. The team has gone on to earn five additional victories at the superspeedway as well as six pole awards and 21 top-10 finishes. Under the guidance of crew chief Alan Gustafson, in 2015 the No. 24 team swept both pole positions in Talladega qualifying and in 2016 Elliott earned his second pole award of the season at the Alabama track as well. At Talladega earlier this year Elliott was the top-finishing driver from Hendrick Motorsports with a fifth place result and is looking to improve on those results this weekend.
REACHING NEW HEIGHTS: The sky is the limit for Elliott. When the rookie is away from the track he is busy honing his aerial skills. Elliott earned his private pilot license in July 2015 and more recently secured his multi-engine instrument rating. He describes flying as “peaceful” but also “not something that can be taken lightly.” Earlier this month, NBC tagged along for a flight to check out Elliott’s skills. To see Elliott in flight watch here.
Driver Quotes | Chase Elliott
“Talladega is always known for close finishes and I’m excited to get back. The racing there, you can’t really compare it to anything else. Talladega is a special place because it’s a historic race track for our sport. I remember watching a lot of races there. My dad still has that qualifying record and it’s obviously very impressive. It says a lot of him, Uncle Ernie and Uncle Dan, and really everybody who worked on those cars back then. They all went the extra mile to make things like that happen. So, when I think about that, it just takes the respect level that I already have for all that they did with what they had back then, and makes it even greater.”
- Elliott on Talladega
“We will just need to go and race our hearts out and try to win. That’s about all we can do. The best place to be at Talladega, as everybody knows, is to try to be out front. That is hard to sustain for a long period of time in those races, but we’ve seen guys who have gotten good at it over the past few years. They make it happen and are able to control a race really well. I do think there is an art to it. There are obviously a lot of things you can’t control and running as close as we do there, that is a big factor, but I do think there is something that you can do better than others rather than just riding around and hoping for the best.”
- Elliott on Talladega Strategy