Chase Elliott loses rookie stripe, hopes to avoid sophomore jinx

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Now that he’s moved into his second season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Chase Elliott is happy to have turned in the yellow rookie stripe on the back of his No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet SS.

But one thing the son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott does not want is to trade the yellow stripe for NASCAR’s notorious sophomore jinx.

“You hope you can continue forward and not look at it as Year 2 or from that perspective, you have to look at it as a new season,” Elliott said Tuesday during the NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte. “As boring of an answer as that is, that’s how you have to approach it. One thing I have is the same crew chief for two years. I haven’t had that before. I enjoyed working with Alan (Gustafson) last year.

“He’s one of the best in my opinion. I’m pretty confident in that. He’s very underrated in what he does and tries to make the race team go.”

Even though he made the playoffs in his first season — finished 10th in the overall standings with 10 top-fives and 17 top-10s — and also earned Cup Rookie of the Year, Elliott said he still has a lot to learn and to “improve on areas where we or I struggled in, and improve areas we succeeded in. I want to keep it as simple as that.”

On Monday, Hendrick Motorsports announced that the Hooters restaurant chain will serve as primary sponsor for two races and will be associate sponsor for the other 34 races of both the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Elliott knows he’s the latest part of the Hooters legacy in NASCAR.

The company has sponsored cars in over 150 Cup-level races over the years, including Alan Kulwicki’s 1992 Winston Cup championship team, defeating Bill Elliott in the final race of the season to earn the title by 10 points.

“I know their history with Alan Kulwicki is long and him and my dad had that great championship battle there (1992 championship),” Chase Elliott said. “So it’s kind of ironic to see that, but it’s cool and neat to carry the Hooters colors.”

With Elliott following in the footsteps of Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS, he was asked if there’s any extra pressure on him, particularly with long-time, old school racing fans.

“I just want to be me and keep it as straightforward as I can,” he said. “I like to keep it simple as possible. I appreciate the support we have and having the people we have.

“I remember at Darlington last year, I saw a bunch of new 24 gear. That goes a long way. It doesn’t go unnoticed. You hope people support you for who you are. I hope that’s the way it goes for me.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

NASCAR America: Jimmie Johnson’s patience propels him to victory lane in Food City 500

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Jimmie Johnson is known for his patience behind the wheel. Where other drivers may get too hot under the collar and over-react, Johnson is typically cool as a cucumber — and that’s helped lead him to many of his 82 career NASCAR Cup wins.

That patience once again played out in Johnson’s win Monday in the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, only his second career triumph (and first in seven years) at the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile.”

On Monday’s NASCAR America, Greg Biffle and Kyle Petty discussed Johnson’s patience throughout Monday’s race.

 

 

Heavy foot on pit road foils Kyle Larson once again at Bristol

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Kyle Larson did everything he could to win Monday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

He led a race-high 203 laps in the 500-lap event, including dominating Stage 1, leading all 125 laps, as well as the first 77 laps in Stage 2.

But Larson, known for the heavy foot he has, saw that need for speed at the wrong time likely cost him the win.

When Erik Jones wrecked on Lap 422, Larson came to pit road and was too fast across two consecutive timing zones on the front straightaway en route to his pit stall.

“I was just pushing on pit road and messed up there,” Larson said after the race. “To start the race, I was the leader, I would run all my greens down pit road, and then once I fell back … down the straightaway I was running one red and flashed the second red real quick, and I guess that was all she wrote.”

NASCAR penalized Larson for speeding on pit road, dropping him to the back of the longest line, restarting in 20th place with 72 laps left in the race.

“Yeah, I knew I gave the race away there,” Larson said. “(I’m) disappointed in myself. I think I speed on pit road every single time I come to Bristol. So, I’ve got to clean that up.”

There’s that heavy foot admission once again.

Ironically, it was Larson’s first speeding penalty this season.

To his credit, Larson was able to quickly climb back up the grid, but couldn’t finish higher than sixth.

Still, Larson tried to a positive spin on things as he began to leave the track.

“I don’t know what more you could ask out of this place,” Larson said. “This is the best track we go to, most exciting place, and I love coming here.”

But he doesn’t like the way he came out of it once again, thanks to that darn heavy foot.

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NASCAR America: Dale Jarrett, Kelli Stavast recap Bristol driver performances

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After waiting out 28 straight hours of rain, Monday’s rescheduled Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway produced a rather exciting race.

The addition of adhesive to the lower grove at the track gave drivers additional grip that led to side-by-side and even three-wide racing.

On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett and Kelli Stavast discussed the top driver performances in Monday’s race.

 

 

NASCAR America: My Home Track: Maine’s Oxford Plains, Beech Ridge Motor Speedway

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NASCAR America’s My Home Track series continued Monday as we visited Maine, otherwise known as the Pine Tree State.

Not only is it a great state for racing, including places like Oxford Plains and Beach Ridge Motor Speedway, Maine also lays claim to NBCSN’s own Steve Letarte, who paid homage to his home state in Monday’s edition of NASCAR America.