HAMPTON, Ga. — Chase Elliott has accomplished so much in his young racing career.
A NASCAR championship. Most Popular Driver Rewards. Fifteen Cup victories on all types of tracks.
But one thing is missing.
A home win.
The 26-year-old Dawsonville native returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, still looking to take the checkered flag at the spot where his father Bill established the family’s fame and young Chase learned the ropes of the job.
“It’s always nice to run close to home,” Elliott said. “It’s nice to come home at night, sleep in my own bed.”
Even better than a restful night would be the chance to celebrate in victory lane in front of a Home State crowd.
“I would love to win here,” Elliott said. “It would be very meaningful to be able to tick that box.”
The 2020 series champion has two wins already this season and leads the points standings heading into the second race of the season on Atlanta’s 1.54-mile trioval.
In a wild year that produced 13 different winners in the first half of the 36-race marathon and seemingly made it impossible to sustain any level of success, Elliott was solid just about every time. he starts the engine.
In addition to wins at Dover and Nashville, he was second to Tyler Reddick last week at Road America to go along with nine other top 10s.
“Chase Elliott has been this constant rock,” Kurt Busch said Saturday, when heavy storms swept away qualifying for the Quaker State 400. say, “Where does he come from? He is fourth. He’s doing the job champions do, and he’s doing it better than other champions right now.
But Atlanta Motor Speedway has always been a bit of an enigma to Elliott, whose father won at the track five times – albeit at a time before several renovations produced an entirely different layout.
Chase missed eight Cup races on the high-speed track, achieving just one top-five finish. He’s 0 for 12 if you add in his Xfinity and Truck series appearances.
“We had a really good race I would say and the others are pretty poor,” Elliott said. “I would love to tick that box. It would be super special for me.
Elliott’s #9 Chevrolet will lead the field at the start of Sunday’s 260-lap race. As the series leader, he took pole position when qualifying was won.
The race day forecast was also uncertain, with a significant chance of thunderstorms throughout the afternoon.
While the Cup drivers are in Atlanta this weekend, they’ve been faced with many questions about a different city and a race that doesn’t officially exist.
Not yet anyway.
The Athletic reported that Chicago officials have paved the way for NASCAR to stage a historic street race starting in 2023 under a three-year deal.
Some pilots called it another amazing chance to expand the sport’s fan base. Others said a street layout for bulky coupe cars would present little chance of overtaking.
“I’m very skeptical,” said William Byron. “I’ve driven it (virtually) on iRacing, and if it’s anything like that, it’s very, very tight.”
But Kurt Busch said it was a chance to create another unique racing experience like this year’s season-opening Clash held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
“The excitement, the different value and the different feel, that would be off the charts,” he said. “It’s important for our sport to do that on certain weekends.”
Busch’s younger brother Kyle questioned the wisdom of NASCAR committing to three years of street racing in Chicago. He noted that crowds were much lower for last week’s second Cup appearance at Road America, as opposed to the inaugural race in 2021.
“As we’ve seen, we can do a really good shot the first time, then the second year, the third year, it’s dead,” Kyle Busch said. “Try it once and see how it goes.”
Kyle Busch is also worried about NASCAR potentially giving up more ovals to add road and street racing. He thinks the current schedule – 30 ovals and six road courses – is the right mix.
“Continuing to win road courses and eliminate ovals is not NASCAR,” he grumbled.
After winning Atlanta’s first race of the season and then taking another checkered flag at Martinsville, Byron looked set to have a huge season.
Instead, the last 10 races have been pretty tough for the #24 Hendrick Motorsports machine rider.
Byron has only one top 10 in that span, averaging 19.5.
“We certainly can’t wait to overthrow it,” he said. “We have a car in the top five.”
Despite some cover in recent weeks, Aric Almirola insisted it was his last season as a full-time Cup driver.
Almirola, 38, surprisingly announced his retirement from the #10 Stewart Haas Racing car before the start of the season, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.
Almirola said those plans have not changed.
“Running is what I love to do. I’m always going to run – just full time is a chore,” he said. “It’s really hard to go 40 weeks a year.”
In the meantime, he savors things he once took for granted.
“The reality is that we have one of the coolest jobs in the world,” Almirola said. “Knowing it’s the end, I embrace it.”
Elliott and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson are 5-1 favorites to win, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
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