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.”

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