When you’re 19 – soon to be 20 (Nov. 28) – and with your whole life and the whole world ahead of you, it can be hard to contain yourself and restrain excitement.
But that’s not the case for defending Xfinity Series champion Chase Elliott. With a maturity far beyond his years, Elliott has become a master of both patience and compartmentalizing things.
While Elliott will jump to the Sprint Cup Series and take over the fabled No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet next season, replacing the soon-to-retire Jeff Gordon, he’s not letting what the future holds in store get to him.
Rather, Elliott is focused on just one thing: to repeat as Xfinity champ. He’s 27 points behind series leader Chris Buescher, with three races remaining (Texas, Phoenix and Homestead).
“We’re all-in for this season,” Elliott said during NASCAR’s test session Tuesday at Michigan International Speedway. “It’s just beyond unfair for me to forget about what we have on the Xfinity side and to forget about that now. We’ve come all season, why quit now? There’s no need in that.”
Even though Elliott was getting a bit of a head start on 2016 by testing the upcoming new low-downforce package at MIS along with Erik Jones and Chris Buescher, Elliott still believes he can overtake Buescher for the championship.
“We still have a chance, that’s our mindset,” Elliott said. “If we didn’t think that, we might as well just not go to the last three. I think we do have a legitimate shot to get it done.
“I think it can be done, but we definitely have to have some things go your way. Anything can happen, it can go for you or against you real fast. Hopefully we can put together three solid weekends, not have any mistakes, and give ourselves a chance to get another win this season. I think that would be a big help. But no, definitely I’ve not forgotten about this year and I’m not going to.”
As for Tuesday’s test in particular, Elliott likes the new aero package he’ll be driving in the Sprint Cup Series next season, which includes a 3.5-inch rear spoiler, a 0.25-inch front leading splitter edge and a 33-inch wide radiator pan.
But Elliott also said there’s even more to build upon going forward with the new package.
“I’d like to think it’ll (race competition will) be better, but I don’t know how much better it’ll be,” he said. “I hope this is a small step as we continue down this path. We don’t need to stop here. I think we need to continue, if that’s the direction we need to go in, and not get satisfied too soon.”