Everyone one loves an overnight success, don’t they? The only problem with that affection is that it’s more often than not misplaced, or at least not accurate.
Auto racing and music are famous genres’ for this human perception and NASCAR’s young Chase Elliott is a shining example.
His Sprint Cup debut at Martinsville wasn’t what he, Hendrick or the uneducated masses, wanted it to be. But it was a start. You can only go up from 38th place. Richmond is up next.
To be completely fair, he had power steering problems at the worst time and in the worst place possible. At Martinsville you’re in a perpetual state of turning and turning a 3500 lb. car is no easy task.
The old adage that you have to walk before you run really does mean something in motorsports. There are several types of driver:
The Engineer: This type of driver has technical prowess and usually requires more experience to get up to speed even in the lower classes. They approach the effort as a project from a logical point of view using mathematics, software and a great deal of practice to hone the craft.
The Natural: The natural is just that, just naturally gifted. It’s someone who has an uncanny sense of what’s going on beneath them. Niki Lauda said it best: “I have the greatest ass in the world.” In other words, he could feel what the car was doing by the seat of his pants. However, in the world of modern racing, this ‘Gift’ will only take you so far.
Formula One’s Kimi Raikkonen only had 21 races of any kind under his belt before he sat in a Formula One Car, but it’s now taken years to get back to his ‘crashed onto the scene’ levels.
Then there’s the third type and it’s the rarest of all. The Natural Engineer. This driver has the ability to feel the car intimately but also be able to understand the dynamics of what they’re feeling. They don’t have to be expert engineers, just understand it and make decisions that reflect that understanding.
The common denominator among all three of these types is a very human one. Passion. To achieve the results of the engineer or natural you have to have passion and that emotion rarely comes together with a driver who is a natural and engineer, but when it does you have a Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and almost certainly, Chase Elliott on your hands.
These are rare individuals who seem to come out of nowhere and rise rapidly with very few races, or years under their belt.
Now it’s Chase Elliott. However, the kid has been at it for a while despite the fact that he’s only 19.
With Elliott, he had his famous Father, Bill Elliott, working with him and the passion to take it all in as well as a few years in the lower ranks to hone those skills.
This wont bode well for his future competitors.
There are a number of drivers at the top levels of motorsports, whether NASCAR, IndyCar or Formula One who have gotten to the top through the machinations of their famous Fathers. Most of these drivers have a very tough time living up to the family hype. Why?
They don’t really want it badly enough to have learned all of the aspects of racing that their Fathers didn’t face. It’s harder today than it was 20 years ago but Chase Elliott has put in the time, effort and passion to make it to the top and the near future will prove this out.
A famous name will only get you so far without the talent that you picked up as a result of being around and involved in the racing game.
Many of these divers have a mistaken sense of entitlement and that becomes obvious when they excelled in the lower ranks but seem mediocre at the very top. I wont name names, I don’t have to.
Chase Elliott doesn’t fit into that category.
He maybe in one of his own.