Chase Elliott not afraid to go outside comfort zone to broaden racing skills

PLACERVILLE, Calif. — Chase Elliott travelled in to dirty Placerville Speedway at 10:15 p.m. regional time Thursday night — a crisp 1:15 a.m. back house on the East Coast. “I was pushing it, made it,” Elliott stated of his turn-around from the 5 p.m. conclusion of NASCAR Next Gen screening at Charlotte Motor Speedway previously in the day to his 6:30 p.m. flight to Sacramento.

Fifteen minutes after strolling through the Placerville pit gate, Elliott emerged from the Kyle Larson Racing hauler of his Cup Series colleague, having actually traded his fresh Atlanta Braves cap with a 2021 World Series logo design for a firesuit and helmet. An ATV pressed his No. 9 USAC Midget racer to the track, with Larson trotting to a hillside viewpoint at the track’s north rely on enjoy and remember.

RELATED: Images from Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott’s journey to California

The dirt-track education of Elliott continued with a complete 2 extra nights of racing at the quarter-mile oval in stunning Northern California, with the 2020 Cup Series champion getting experience and widening his racing portfolio. He had the advantage of 2 well-credentialed instructors — Larson, his follower as Cup champ and a master of several dirt disciplines, and Brad Sugary Food, the World of Outlaws run automobile champ for 3 years running — assisting him to browse a track he’d never ever seen prior to last weekend.

“I felt like I was making gains from being around people who know this, it’s such a departure from anything I’ve ever done, but I really have enjoyed it,” Elliott stated prior to Saturday’s centerpiece. “For me, it’s really nothing more than just trying to better myself and get outside in an area that I’ve never been in before and do something different. I have always really respected the discipline and I’ve been a fan of it for a number of years.

“I just felt like I got to a point where I’m like man, if I don’t … I’m interested in it, I think it’s really cool, I respect the discipline. I think you can learn some really good habits during this stuff. And I was just like, man, if I like it, it’s not gonna get any easier as you get older. As you get older, I feel like learning new things is just going to be harder and harder and harder. So I just felt like if I was going to get involved, I needed to get in there and make an effort to do that.”

Elliott ended up 20th in Saturday’s Hangtown 100 A-Main, entering the function with a provisionary berth after turning up 2 locations except a transfer area in the C-Main. Missing out on Thursday’s occasions left him with an uphill reach certify outright, however he never ever stopped attempting to discover.

After each on-track stint, Elliott debriefed with Larson, Sugary food and the team, evaluating video footage of his warms and collecting more details about the track’s qualities. Larson and Elliott frequently work together as colleagues in Hendrick Motorsports’ group conferences, however this was something brand-new for all celebrations to soak up.

“It’s really neat to see how and kind of get a glimpse of how his brain works and how he processes how to drive a race car,” Larson stated. “I’m not a good coach, so it’s been nice to have Brad Sweet here. He’s really been helping Chase a lot. I pitch in some advice when I can, but like I said, my only advice is I feel like to anybody when they ask me what to do is to say, ‘run it harder.’ Explaining how to run it harder, Brad’s really good at doing that and talking angles and explaining what to do with your hands and feet.

“But no, Chase has really impressed me. For him to fly in, suit up, sit in the car, strap in after never seeing this track, didn’t probably watch the races because he was flying here … to go out there and be as smooth and consistent as he was, I thought was extremely impressive. He just needs more seat time and it’ll come. This is as opposite as it gets from what he’s used to doing, especially these track conditions, so I’ve been extremely impressed. I thought he’s probably a little hard on himself, but for him to just go way out of his comfort zone is something we should all take notice of and be impressed with.”

RELATED: Why Kyle Larson has a ladybug for a good-luck appeal

Sweet took notification, too, stating he drew some resemblances in between Elliott’s technique and his own. Sweet, who has asphalt experience on his own resume with 54 NASCAR national-series begins on a part-time basis from 2009-2013, states Elliott’s determination to make that additional effort ended up being apparent as he acquired rate through the weekend.

“I think what’s most impressive about Chase is how much he cares,” Sugary food states. “He’s really out of his comfort zone, and that’s really respectable for a guy who basically has kind of a fan base and people expect him to be good, and sometimes it’s a little uncomfortable to come to a place where you know you’re not going to be as good as what you know you are. So it’s really cool that he came here, it helps put a lot of eyes on our sport, and he’s definitely trying really hard. He wants to know every piece of information, advice that anybody has for him and I think that’s pretty cool.

“I think that he thinks he’s worse than he is, but it’s just because he’s not as comfortable as he wants to be yet. So I think once he gets a little more comfortable, there’s no doubt he’s unbelievably talented. Once he gets some more laps, there’s just a lot of experience here — these guys do this night in and night out. So once he gains the experience I think it’ll be a lot more competitive and it’ll become even more fun for him.”

The Placerville crowd invited Elliott warmly, staying after the centerpiece on Thursday’s opening night after word distributed that his tentative arrival was inching closer to truth. After dressing and filling in, he slung his No. 9 racer into the turns, checking out Placerville’s grooves and triggering cheers from the sturdy handfuls who remained. “Nobody claps for hot laps,” one team member stated while viewing from the Turn 3 embankment.

There may be more of a reception from the dirt-track crowd this offseason if Elliott has his method. He showed Saturday that a go back to the Chili Bowl Nationals is tentatively in the works, and a January look there would mark his 2nd entry in the prominent midget-car occasion.

“We’re working on it. If they don’t fire me, I’m supposed to do it,” Elliott stated with a laugh. “They’ve offered it up and I told them I would love to do it. So, we’ll see. If they don’t fire me by next Saturday, I’m planning on going.”

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.