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Kwasniewski Makes Hometown Debut in Vegas

By Stephanie Adair – NASCAR Nationwide Series driver and Rookie of the Year contender Dylan Kwasniewski will be racing at his hometown track this weekend. This will be his first time competing at home in one of NASCAR’s premier series. The 18-year old has already made waves by grabbing the pole at Daytona and finishing eighth.

After a 13th place finish last week at Phoenix International Speedway, Kwasniewski currently sits fifth in the points standings. He

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hopes to make an impressive finish with his first start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“(I) have been racing at the “Bullring” (Las Vegas Motor Speedway), which is a three-eighths mile track …” said the rookie driver early Friday morning. “I have always been dreaming about getting on track here. I have been to all the races here and watched what goes on but to actually be here, race … in front of my home town and hopefully have the home crowd cheering me on. It’s going to be pretty cool.”

“I think we got some good momentum going in. We had a (good) first two… races and hopefully we can improve on our finish from Phoenix last (week).”

The K&N Pro Series East and West champion later placed 15th in first practice, but met adversity near the end of the session. His car became loose, coming out of Turn 4, and slammed into the wall. With his new backup car, he rallied to 19th place in final practice.

“We’ll bounce back and it’s not going to stop me from going back out and trying my hardest again.”

Despite the challenge, Kwasniewski will strive to contend for the win and move ahead of his fellow rookie of the year contenders. Currently he sits in second, tied with Chase Elliot, four points behind leader Ty Dillon.

“It’s going to be tough,” Kwasniewski commented. “You got to set your sights high … I am definitely trying to gun for everybody out on the track, but especially those rookies for sure.

Stephanie Adair is a Popular Speed Development Journalist

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XFINITY

Wave of Momentum Continues in Phoenix for JR Motorsports

By Kelly Crandall – After an off season of change, hires and moving personnel around, JR Motorsports hasn’t missed a beat.

Following a big weekend in Daytona where Regan Smith captured his fourth career win in the Nationwide Series season opener, followed by the boss, Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning his second Daytona 500 a day later, the company rode the energy into Phoenix. All three cars finished in the top 10 after rain forced the race to be called 32 laps from the finish.

Kevin Harvick, a new acquisition for JRM, led the way. Harvick finished third after leading a few circuits late in the event.

“I just want to thank everybody at JR Motorsports first. There was a lot of new things that had been put together, new people, lot of cars cut up, lot of bodies cut off, and they’ve had a really long winter,” Harvick said.

“The first time I ever sat in a car was yesterday, so to show up and have everything work and everybody communicate and do all the things, really proud of them. We’re going to build a foundation of setups and things that we need to make improvements and it’s not like we need to reinvent the wheel, we just need to tweak on it and go from here.”

Harvick will run a partial schedule for JRM this season, his first race Saturday at Phoenix. An added veteran to the lineup as the company seeks their first NNS championship. Along with Harvick came sponsors like Hunt Brothers Pizza and Armour.

There’s also a familiar face atop the pit box. Ernie Cope now calls the shots, a crew chief Harvick worked with back when he owned his own teams in the both the Truck and Nationwide Series.

While Harvick led the way, teammates Regan Smith and Chase Elliott battled their way through the field. Using differing pit strategies, the three teams went from their starting positions to the rear of the field after choosing to make early stops under the race’s first caution. They eventually found themselves on par with the leaders and just as fast.

Smith finished eighth and retained his point lead heading into Las Vegas. Working with new crew chief Robin Pemberton, who was moved to his team before this season. Greg Ives, whom Smith won two races with last season and led the point standings until early summer, now works with JRM’s new rookie.

The rookie who finished the highest of the class on Saturday afternoon after the race was declared official. Chase Elliott earned the first top 10 of his career, an eighth, in just his second career start.

“I was really proud of our effort. To come here, kind of the first real racetrack we go to, all three cars ran well and Kevin finishing second today,” Elliott said. “We were inside the top five for a little while. Felt like our car was capable of being there, just needed a little help on those restarts and pit stops.”

Elliott was brought to the NNS after dominating the short track world. He also ran a limited schedule last year in the CWTS, capturing a win at the road course in Canada. A development driver for Hendrick Motorsports made the transition logical and when NAPA left the Sprint Cup Series, JRM brought them into the fold with the youngster.

“I learned I have a good group around me. I feel like our team and the folks I was put with this year, we all kind of mesh well together,” he said. “Communications been really good for the first two weeks anyway, cars have been fast. Regan getting the win last week and Kevin had a great run today.”

In his NNS debut last weekend, Elliott brought the car home in one piece with a top 15 finish. On Saturday, not only did Elliott improve both is starting and finishing positions, he had an average running spot inside the top 10.

After two races he too, sits inside the top 10 in points heading into Las Vegas, a track that he’s never seen before. The JRM lineup for the race – Harvick, Smith and Elliott – will remain intact.

“I felt like all three cars were capable of running inside the top seven, eight, somewhere right there,” Elliott said. “To come out of the box and have a top 10 this weekend, I feel like that’s something to be proud of and hopefully take that momentum to Las Vegas and try to improve upon that.”

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KellyCrandall

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Kyle Busch wins Rain-Shortened Phoenix Nationwide Race

By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service (AVONDALE, Ariz.) –You can change the cars.

You can change the qualifying format.

You can change the weather from cloudy to sunny to rainy—multiple times.

But, no matter what you do, you can’t keep Kyle Busch out of Victory Lane at Phoenix International Raceway, at least not where the NASCAR Nationwide Series is concerned.

In Saturday’s Blue Jeans Go Green 200 at the one-mile track in the Sonoran desert, Busch dominated—again—leading 155 laps en route to his unprecedented third straight NNS victory at PIR and his seventh overall.

Busch’s first victory of the 2014 was his 64th overall, extending his own series record, and it was his first in a rain-shortened race in any of NASCAR’s top three series. Despite repeated efforts to dry the track, NASCAR ultimately called the event 32 laps short of its scheduled distance.

With a hard rain falling, NASCAR brought the cars to pit road and halted the race after Busch crossed the finish line to complete Lap 168, under caution for Ryan Reed’s crash into the wall that guards the inside of the backstretch dogleg.

After a red-flag period of two hours, eight minutes, NASCAR made Busch’s win official.

“I think just the pure dominance we’ve shown here the last few times that we’ve come here and the amount of laps we’ve led with how fast our cars are is pretty phenomenal,” Busch said after a rain-soaked celebration. “All the credit goes to Adam Stevens (crew chief) and everybody back at the shop.

“It’s fun to win them anyway. This is my first time winning a rain-shortened one. Welcome to the tent. I don’t know that it really made a whole lot of difference. We were really good. I would have loved to gone back out there after, but the weather wasn’t on our side today.”

The driver of the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota had taken the point for the first time with a pass of polesitter Brad Keselowski on Lap 6. From that point on, he toyed with the rest of the field, extending his advantage to more than four seconds at its widest.

Kevin Harvick was second when rain halted the race, having passed Keselowski on Lap 160. Keselowski recovered from an accident on Lap 20 to run third. A tap from the pole winner sent Darryl Haar spinning into the outside wall off Turn 2 in a collision that also damaged the nose of Keselowski’s car.

The 2010 NNS champion restarted 27th on Lap 29 after pitting but worked his way forward and took advantage of his earlier pit stop to retake the lead, since most of the cars behind him had made green-flag stops for tires and fuel before the second caution slowed the race on Lap 90.

Harvick led briefly for the restart on Lap 97, but Busch regained the top spot on the restart lap and never relinquished it.

Kyle Larson was fourth, followed by Matt Kenseth, Elliott Sadler, Trevor Bayne and last Saturday’s Daytona winner, Regan Smith, who retained a five-point lead over Bayne in the series standings.

In his first run in the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, Harvick was loose on restarts and soon fell approximately two seconds behind Busch.

“From there, we were just able to maintain,” Harvick said. “But a good effort for the first time out. … Kyle had the best car today. We probably finished where we should have.”

During three breaks in the rain, NASCAR put its Air Titan track-drying system to work, but three more intermittent downpours foiled the efforts to restart the race. The Nationwide Series will be back in action at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 8 for the Boyd Gaming 300 at 4:15 p.m. ET on ESPN2

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XFINITY

James Buescher Perplexed By Tandem Draft Penalty in Nationwide Race

By Matt Weaver (DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.) — James Buescher believes he was made a scapegoat through the controversial decision to penalize his team for push-drafting Brad Keselowski down the backstretch prior to lap 85 during Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Daytona International Speedway.

The penalty essentially eliminated him from contention as he had placed his Rheem Toyota just outside the top-5 at the time of the decision.

During the off-season NASCAR outlawed two-car tandems by announcing that any pairs that locked bumpers in a pushing scenario would have to come down pit road and serve a drive through penalty.

Video from the ESPN broadcast, from the rear of Keselowski’s Ford appeared to illustrate that Buescher never locked bumpers with the 2012 Sprint Cup Series champion — only sporadically bumping in an effort to get to the front.

This left Buescher perplexed as to why the penalty was called against his team.

“(NASCAR) said if you bounce off the car in front of you there’s no call,” Buescher said after the race. “As far as I’m concerned there was only bouncing and never locked the bumper. I haven’t seen a replay so I don’t know what exactly they’re saying was the time that I got called on but we had been bouncing off of everybody’s bumpers all day — everybody had.”

When the rule was first announced, the assumption amongst most of the garage was that NASCAR would penalize both drivers participating in a tandem but that wasn’t the case on Saturday afternoon. Keselowski was never called down pit road alongside Buescher with NASCAR believing that Buescher was the aggressor.

READ MORE: Kelly Crandall says NASCAR’s Ability to Police New Policy Will be Problematic

“Obviously, they’re going to make calls and they had to make an example out of somebody,” Buescher concluded. “I saw people that actually had their bumpers locked on and didn’t get penalties so I’m still a little bit baffled by it.”

ryanNASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton confirmed that Buescher was the aggressor in their eyes, thus resulting in a penalty. Pemberton also explained that the lap Buescher was penalized for may not have been the same as what ESPN showed during their broadcast.

“It all depended which lap you’re looking at and where you were looking at within the lap,” Pemberton told a group of reporters after the race. “That wasn’t the camera that we had (referencing ESPN) or where on the track the penalty occurred.

“I can’t say what they were looking at and if it was the same as us.”

As for choosing to penalize Buescher only, Pemberton says that it is NASCAR’s discretion to decide whether or not to penalize one team or both cars engaging in the tandem draft.

“I believe we said that we could penalize both if we wanted to, or neither, or either one and we chose to do the 99,” Pemberton explained.

Pemberton says it’s hard to say if the rule was a success in the Nationwide Series until after they talk to the teams about it in advance of the next restrictor plate race, at Talladega Superspeedway, in early May.

“We’ll talk to the teams when it’s all said and done to see where they landed on it,” Pemberton said. “You know once again we work with the teams all season long and see where it stands.”

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattWeaverSBN

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Regan Smith Edges Brad Keselowski by .013 seconds to Win NNS Race at Daytona

By Reid Spencer (NASCAR Wire Service) DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Regan Smith got the bump-drafting help he needed from Trevor Bayne and beat Brad Keselowski to the finish line by .013 seconds to win Saturday’s season-opening NASCAR Nationwide Series DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway.

In a race that went one lap beyond its posted distance of 120 laps because of a late caution involving Chad Boat and Eric McClure, Smith got help from Bayne in the outside lane and arrived at the stripe in his No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet less than three feet ahead of Keselowski, who was drafting with fourth-place finisher Kyle Busch.

Bayne ran third, as he and Smith side-drafted Keselowski and Busch in the inside lane just enough to give Smith a miniscule advantage.

The victory, Smith’s fourth in the series and his first at Daytona, was a race of redemption for the 30-year-old driver, who was right in the middle of the last-lap crash in the 2013 season opener.

At dinner with team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. the evening of the wreck, Smith got a pep talk, but the memory of the crash and its aftermath lingered.

“I’m fortunate that I’ve got a boss who’s been in a lot of situations in the sport and understands a lot of different things over the years in Dale,” Smith said. “We went to dinner Saturday night — we were both getting ready to run the 500 on Sunday…

“He just basically said, ‘You’ve got to shake it off. It’s racing. It’s no fault of anybody’s. Things happen. Circumstances sometimes happen.’ He offered up a lot of good advice through that situation. And it did bother me. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t.

Smith, however, didn’t allow the memories to intrude on the final lap as he was making the decisive run to the checkers.

Keselowski and Busch couldn’t make enough headway in the inside lane to counteract the efforts of Smith and Bayne up top, as drivers tested the limits of NASCAR’s edict against push-drafting, a ban communicated to NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers during Preseason Thunder testing at Daytona in January.

“We kind of got boxed in there late,” Busch said. “The 7 had a good run on the outside with the 6 (Bayne) pushing him. Me and Brad were trying to get going on the bottom, and the 7 was holding us so tight I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time through the corners. He was really on us pretty tight there.

“It was interesting the way the lap played out and how much bumping was going on and what you could do and how far was too far — you’re essentially playing with fire.”

Keselowski offered a similar perspective.

“We cleared the 7 on the restart, and he got a really strong push from the 6 and that was too much for me to be able to hold off,” Keselowski said. “Coming off of (Turn) 4, we were all real tight there, and Kyle wasn’t able to stay with me and push, and that was enough to get Regan the win.”

Saturday’s race saw the first enforcement in a points event of the “no-pushing” rule. In the sanctioning body’s view, James Buescher was bump-drafting too aggressively after a Lap 76 restart and was hit with a pass-through penalty that cost him a top-10 running position

Buescher, however, made up the lost ground after NASCAR called the third caution on Lap 94 because of debris on the backstretch. He finished 16th.

After the field took the checkered flag Earnhardt triggered a multi-car wreck by turning the No. 42 Chevrolet of 10th-place Kyle Larson. In typical fashion, Earnhardt offered no excuses.

“We were coming to the finish line,” Earnhardt explained. “The 42 (Larson) was shoving me pretty good. I really didn’t have anywhere to go. I got down on the apron. I was trying not to come back up on the race track, get quarter-paneled, have a big wreck there.”

“We were slowing down. I was looking all around trying to figure out where everybody was at. Ran into the back of the 87 (Joe Nemechek) and 39 (Ryan Sieg). Totally my fault. Really wasn’t paying attention. I hate it for Joe and those guys ’cause they don’t need to be tearing up race cars.”

Notes: The finish was the seventh closest in NASCAR Nationwide Series history and second closest at Daytona. The closest finish at the 2.5-mile superspeedway was Tony Stewart’s victory by .007 seconds in 2011… Rookie polesitter Dylan Kwasniewski ran eighth in his Daytona debut.

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Kindred Connections: Families Living at Race Speed

By Jenny Bradmon – Dylan Kwasniewski got behind the wheel of his first go-cart when he was four-and-a-half. However, his mom, Jen Kwasniewski, had no idea it would lead to a full-time ride in the NASCAR Nationwide Series by 2014. Dylan will drive the No. 31 Rockstar Energy Chevrolet for Turner Scott Motorsports.

“When his dad brought home the go-cart, I thought that it would be a hobby. He was playing t-ball at the time, so I was encouraging his baseball career,” Jen Kwasniewski said. “There isn’t a college scholarship for NASCAR. There are 43 drivers in NASCAR, I thought at the time what were his chances of making it as one of those drivers?”

Racing became the passion for Dylan and baseball took a backseat. In the beginning of his racing career it was something that Dylan shared with his father, Randy.

“They would have to wait until beach season was over and they would race in the parking lots, as long as the weather would hold out,” Jen said. “Randy and Dylan would go racing with the go-cart and I would take my daughter to her gymnastic meets. I wasn’t into it as much in the beginning, but I have become a huge NASCAR fan.”

Dylan continued to race go-carts, but dad knew he couldn’t continue to race them for long as he had to start looking into something else to get to the next level. When Dylan was 11, he graduated into Bandolero cars and by the time he was 13 he started testing late model cars in Arizona.

After Randy passed in March 2010, Momma Kwasniewski took over the role of helping Dylan’s career.

“I didn’t know what I was doing. I was the mom who would go to the races. That was Randy’s area. I had the chance to meet with Spire Sports and Entertainment. They helped me with the next steps,” she explained.

The next step for Dylan was moving into the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. After hoping to get his feet wet but unable to in 2010, Dylan ran all but one race the following year and earned Rookie of the Year honors along with two wins.

“I would take him to the airport, races or to meet up with the team. I would have to plan everything since Dylan was too young to even rent a car,” Kwasniewski added.

Dylan went on to win the K&N West Series title in 2012 and the K&N Pro Series East championship last year. While Kwasniewski knew it was time to move back into the role of being mom.

“We all realized that his talent was unique and he had the potential to go all the way. I knew it was time to transition. He has a great management team, sponsor and race team. So we made the slow shift and I could go back to just being mom,” Kwasniewski said.

Beyond the track the family tries to spend time together. Kwasniewski’s daughter, Taylor, will be graduating from Cornell in May. “Dylan will race on Saturday night and fly out so that he can be there for graduation on Sunday,” Kwasniewski said.

Jen is excited for Dylan and the upcoming race season, as she plans on being at as many races as possible.

“I probably won’t go to the West Coast races, I will make it to the Texas race,” she said. “We have family there so it will be nice to spend time with them.”

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Kwasniewski Ready to Rock in Nationwide Debut

By Chris Owens – Three short years ago, nobody knew whom Dylan Kwasniewski was or even how to pronounce his name. Spin forward three years and Kwasniewski will make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut today at Daytona.

A native of Las Vegas, Nevada, Kwasniewski is the first driver to win the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West championships in back-to-back years. He became the second driver in back-to-back years to win the East Series championship and graduate to the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Kyle Larson being the most recent driver.

Before last season, the biggest track Kwasniewski had seen was Phoenix International Raceway on the West Series circuit. Now he comes to Daytona ready to tackle one of the biggest beasts on the NNS circuit.

Starting on the pole in last Saturday’s ARCA turned several heads for the young phenom.  While the ARCA race and Saturday’s NNS race don’t compare as far as cars go, Kwasniewski says he still learned several things he can apply come race time.

“You can definitely take a lot out of that ARCA race and take into the Nationwide race. It’s going to be that times 100 I guess. Everything is going to be way more intense,” Kwasniewski said.

“It will be a lot more racy for sure, people will take more risk, you have to stay on your toes and hopefully we’ll be able to stay out of trouble and be there at the end and hopefully get a good finish.”

With just three years in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, Kwasniewski hasn’t been through in the limelight just yet. With the move to the NNS, Kwasniewski says the stage becomes bigger. With the added spotlight, mistakes tend to show more, and that’s one thing he’ll try to minimize on Saturday.

“The type of racing is different, the stage is bigger, and there are more fans. Everything is bigger, it’s more intense and we are going to be able to make those decisions on a split second,” he said.

“Hopefully we won’t be able to screw up that much. It’s going to be tough, especially at Daytona, with how much you have to trust your spotter. It’s going to be hard to have those instincts to react that quickly when you’re on such a big stage.”

One thing Kwasniewski has that he’ll be able to rely on is the fact that Kyle Larson took the same route as he did. Both Larson and Kwasniewski came off of championship runs in the NASCAR East Series and graduated straight to NASCAR’s minor league.

“He went through the same thing I’m going through this year,” Kwasniewski said. “He came from the K&N Series, was absolutely brand new, he had to adapt quickly, so relying on him and having somebody to work with is huge.”

While Larson has graduated to the Sprint Cup Series in just two years, Kwasniewski knows that he’ll be held to a higher standard to perform. He knows he’ll have to, or be forgotten about in a short period of time.

“There’s a very slim opportunity for us to actually show our stuff, come out with a bang and show we have talent in the first place. After that, if you don’t succeed and you don’t perform, well they kind of start to forget about you,” he said.

For the young Las Vegas driver, he’s ready to go. Now that we’re getting closer to his debut, he’s looking forward to making his debut and racing with the caliber of drivers in the NNS.

“Now that we’re getting closer to the weekend, closer to actually going out and competition it’s an awesome feeling,” he said. “A lot of media attention obviously, so just seeing that and being at the big stage and getting to race with these guys is a pretty cool experience and definitely looking forward to the race. “

EMAIL CHRIS AT chris.owens@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ChrisOwens62

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Jeffrey Earnhardt “Really Optimistic” in Advance of 2014 NNS Season

By Aaron Creed (DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.) — Jeffrey Earnhardt, the middle child of Kerry Earnhardt, embarks upon his fifth NASCAR Nationwide Daytona start and first full season with the series in 2014.

Earnhardt has agreed to a full year deal with JD Motorsports with Gary Keller and has sponsor Flex Seal on the quarter panels for the first of currently scheduled two races starting this weekend.

“I’m really optimistic,” the grandson of the legendary Dale Earnhardt said.  “They have a great operation.”

Earnhardt moved over from the Go Green Racing team and spoke about his 2013 season and 2014 expectations.

“We were a top 20 or 25 car with Go Green last year and did that with much less compared to the deal here.  This is a much more comfortable deal.”

Earnhardt was rumored to continue with Go Green Racing now that they have entered a joint venture in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with Frank Stoddard’s FAS Lane Racing team, but would not commit to running any events at the Cup level this season.

“I’m not quite comfortable with moving up yet, and want to gain more experience before moving up into or gaining a more competitive ride,” Earnhardt said.

In practice at Daytona the team has been battling overheating issues; however, this was a common occurrence among many teams.  As a result, Nationwide teams have been allowed an extra inch and a half of front grill space across the bottom in order to hopefully alleviate this.

Earnhardt rolls off 37th in Saturday’s race and is hopeful that a good finish can be had if he can avoid mechanical woes or the ever-looming Big One.

“We’ll be fine on Saturday as long as we figure out these overheating issues and stay out of trouble.”

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Elliott Set to Shine in Role at JR Motorsports

By Chris Owens –

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When you hear the name Elliott, you immediately think of Bill Elliott the 1988 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. It’s time to enter a new name into the mix.

Awesome Bill’s son, Chase, makes his debut in the NASCAR Nationwide Series on Saturday. While he doesn’t have much experience in NASCAR, Elliott already has a victory to his name when the Camping World Truck Series made a visit to the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Canada last season.

With just nine starts in the Truck Series in 2013, Elliott amassed one victory, with five top five’s and seven top 10 finishes in his first venture into the big leagues of stock car racing. With very little experience, Elliott still feels his team will be competitive and he’s happy to be where he’s at with JR Motorsports.

If his team stays focused and does their jobs, Elliott sees no reason they can’t win a race or two in his rookie season.

“I feel like if we all do our jobs right as a team we can get to victory lane more than once and contend for this championship,” Elliot told Popular Speed.

While the deal for Elliott to run for JR Motorsports didn’t come to fruition until late in the offseason, Elliot says it took a lot of work and effort from a lot of different people to make this move happen.

Well it was a process that required a lot of work and effort. From my parents to Mr. Hendrick and really everyone involved at JRM made it all happen,” he said.

“Going into the offseason not knowing what was going to happen was a little uncomfortable but fortunately I’ve got some great folks around me and they made it come together. “

While NAPA Auto Parts was believed to be getting out of NASCAR, they were actually working with JRM to bring Chase into full-time competition in 2014.

Said Elliott, “All the people at NAPA as well put in a lot of hard work and decided this was the right move and I’m extremely thankful for their decision.”

Elliott is optimistic returning to Daytona following January testing a month ago. While it took some time for Elliott to get used to the NNS cars, he feels he’s got some great teammates around him to learn quickly.

“We left Daytona testing (in mid-January) feeling very optimistic. All of the JRM cars had speed. It was the first time I had driven one of these cars,” he said.

“They’re different than what I’m used to, for sure, but I’ve got some of the best restrictor plate racers of all-time around me. Two things I can promise you I’ll be doing this week – driving and listening.”

With just a limited number of starts in the CWTS in 2013, Elliott does have a win under his belt. That win came in controversial fashion at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park when he and fellow youngster Ty Dillon made contact racing for the win.

While Elliot say’s he and Ty have raced together since the incident back in September, you’d have to ask Ty how things stand between the two.

“I know we’ve raced together a good bit since then. I’ll continue to race him as I would anyone else, but you’d have to ask him as far as where we stand.”

With the next step right in front of him, Elliott went out on top in closing his full-time Super Late Model career. Back in January, Elliott won Speedfest at the Watermelon Capital Speedway in Cordele, Georgia.

While the short track Super Late Model will sit idle for a majority of the season, no one should be surprised to see him show up at a race or two this season.

Elliott says he isn’t sure what his short track program will consist of this year, but he isn’t ruling out a race or two.

The Winchester 400 in October or Snowball Derby in December are two races that easily stick out that don’t conflict with the NNS schedule. Both are races that Elliott has run and won in his career.

“I’m sure you know how much I enjoy running our late model stuff and I hope to run as much as I can as long as we can put in the effort that needs to be given, our schedules are really busy so I’m not sure right now,” he said.

For now though, Elliott turns his focus to this Saturday’s event at the Daytona International Speedway. Elliott will make his inaugural start in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series driving has father’s iconic #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet for JR Motorsports.

EMAIL CHRIS AT chris.owens@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ChrisOwens62

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Chase Elliott Poised to Become Next Breakout NASCAR Superstar

By Matt Weaver (DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.) — The very near future of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be on full display Saturday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway in the ARCA Racing Series Lucas Oil 200.

The embodiment of the future is represented by the 18-year-old that will start fifth — Chase Elliott. He carries with him the scrutiny of being proclaimed the most heralded prospect of the past decade. But if those within NASCAR give him time and patience to grow, he has the potential to be the next big thing.

This isn’t just about his heritage by the way, that overplayed heavy burden of living up to the lineage started by the 1988 Sprint Cup champion.

No, the younger Elliott will primarily face the pressures of living up to his own outrageous competitive standards — that of finding success in everything he has ever set out to accomplish. Elliott strives in his own charming humble way to be the best of all-time.

Everything has gone according to plan as Elliott has won in every type of car he has ever driven.

He surprisingly won his first start ever in a Dirt Late Model two years ago and has built a vast resume that includes his status as the only driver to win all four stages of the Super Late Model grand slam — Snowball Derby, All-American 400, Winchester 400 and World Crown 300.

He leaves the short track ranks, at 18-years-old, as perhaps one of the greatest ever. He’s also picked up victories in the NASCAR Pro Series, Truck Series and ARCA while in the process. In other words, Elliott is used to being the man.

But starting today in the Lucas Oil 200, Elliott is a much smaller fish swimming in a considerably larger pond, preparing to give the NASCAR community that first real snapshot of who he is and what he has the potential to someday become.

Some have already declared him as the seeming heir apparent to Jeff Gordon. Others are hoping that he is the answer to who will replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. as the face of the sport and catalyst for the next boom period — as if the pressure of finding success in NASCAR wasn’t difficult enough as is.

As with other rookies like Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon and Dylan Kwasniewsk, Elliott should be judged with patience and space.  He won’t be ‘The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread’ overnight. He will make mistakes but he has the great potential to overcome them to.

Fans and NASCAR notables must check their expectations for just a little bit. But if they do, Elliott will reward them. He will do so because he has it all. He has the adaptability, communication skills, heart and determination to be one of the all-time greats and he’s displayed it everywhere he has raced.

And he just arrived in NASCAR.

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

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