CONCORD, N.C. – Chase Elliott couldn’t have asked for a better early birthday present.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver won’t celebrate his 16th birthday for six days, but on Tuesday, he was honored to hear that he had been named the Most Popular Driver in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.
Elliott, son of 16-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Most Popular Driver Bill Elliott, led the way with a record vote total. The second-generation driver from Dawsonville, Ga., is coming off his rookie season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East – where he was the first 15-year-old to compete in the series.
“It’s awesome,” Elliott said. “Just the support, the amount of votes is what really got me. Not only the votes for me, but there were a lot of guys who got a lot of votes. It’s just cool to know that you have that many supporters who are willing to vote so many times. I mean they didn’t just vote at the beginning, but they voted all the way through. I thought that was really cool. Obviously, a lot of Dad’s followers are supporting me, and I really appreciate that. I feel like I’ve gained some followers on my own, and hopefully I can continue to do that.”
More than 136,000 votes were cast in the balloting, which opened in mid-July and ended on Monday. It was more than double the previous high of 50,743 recorded in 2008, the first year the Most Popular Driver voting was conducted online. This marked the first year in which voters were able to see the totals after casting their ballots.
Elliott will return to the K&N Series in 2012, eager to improve upon his run this season. In 12 starts in the East, Elliott recorded three top-five finishes and six top-10s. Most recently, he raced in the K&N Pro Series West at Phoenix International Raceway and earned third-place, which matches his best regional finish to date.
“I thought this season was a big learning curve for me and for all the guys,” Elliott said. “It didn’t go near as well as we had hoped it to, but there at the end, we had a couple of really solid runs. Our best run was definitely out at Phoenix, where we got a third-place finish. It was just a solid race from start to finish. That was a big momentum booster for me moving onto next year. I really feel like we’re going to have a strong run next year.”