After the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Chase Elliott was named the Sunoco Rookie of the Year.
The son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott finished the season 10th in the standings. Chase Elliott went winless, but finished his first campaign with two poles (Daytona 500, Talladega I), 10 top fives and 17 top 10s. He qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup but was eliminated after the second round.
In his brief appearance in the media center, Elliott said he wasn’t deserving of the attention while his teammate Jimmie Johnson celebrated his seventh Sprint Cup title.
“I don’t need to be sitting up here right now, seven championships versus Rookie of the Year. You guys need to be watching him,” Elliott told the media. “But I’m proud of our season for sure. I’m definitely proud to earn the Rookie of the Year honors. It’s been a long season, a lot of ups and downs, but we’re happy to be here and definitely enjoyed racing against those guys for the Rookie of the Year this season. Felt like it was a fun group, and we’re excited to get on to season two.”
In 36 races, Elliott led 358 laps spread out over 14 races. His season-high of 107 laps led came in the fall race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The native of Dawsonville, Georgia, also recorded two DNFs.
After 41 Sprint Cup starts, Elliott says he feels “far from” being a veteran. The 2017 Daytona 500 will be his first race without the yellow rookie stripes on his rear bumper.
“Good news is I don’t have to go to any more rookie meetings, which is nice,” Elliott said. “I think you learn things as you go, but I can’t see the back bumper, so I don’t know what’s there or not. I think you just kind of learn from experiences and things you encounter along the way, not so much whether it’s your first year or first race or whatever it is. I think it’s more of an experience-based kind of feel, whether you have that comfort moving forward.”
Elliott is still seeking his first Cup win. The only rookie to win in 2016 was Buescher, who won at Pocono in a race shortened by fog.
Elliott’s predecessor in the No. 24, Jeff Gordon, was Rookie of the Year in 1993 and didn’t earn his first win until his 42nd start. Elliott’s 42nd start will come in the 2017 Daytona 500.