When Chase Elliott sees an opportunity to drive his Super Late Model at a big event, he grabs that opportunity by the horns. So when the 2014 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion noticed he had an open date on his schedule for March 15, the day of the 39th Annual Rattler 250 at South Alabama Speedway, he took advantage of it by filing his entry for the season-opening Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco event.
Elliott will attempt to make the nearly 1,800-mile trip from Avondale, Arizona to Kinston, Alabama after competing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday, March 14.
“I enjoy Late Model racing and I saw an opportunity to get a run,” said Elliott. “Hopefully the weather will be good and we can make it happen. I enjoy racing at Opp. They have a great staff there that have always been really nice to me and our team. I feel like they really care about the races they put on and as a racer that makes you want to go back. I’m looking forward to going and hopefully we can have a good run.”
When Elliott arrives at South Alabama Speedway on Sunday, March 15, he will have to start from the rear of the field due to his expected absence from qualifying. He will also cross under the green flag without a single lap of practice recorded during the weekend.
“Not being able to practice and whatnot and just showing up on Sunday and starting from the rear, that doesn’t do you any favors by any means,” stated Elliott. “But I have enough confidence in (crew chief) Ricky (Turner) and my great group of guys going to these races.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve been there in a Super Late Model, so hopefully we can be close out of the box. I’ll just give it my best shot and not worry about it. Just go race. There’s two breaks throughout that race to work on your car, so hopefully we can make the most of those and make the right adjustments to be there when it counts.”
Although Elliott acknowledges the challenges he will face on the race track during the 250-lap race against the Southern Super Series drivers, he believes his biggest challenge that weekend involves factors off of the race track.
“I think the first challenge is just the logistics and the weather,” said 19-year-old rising NASCAR star. “Really the whole weekend kind of relies on the weather for me and whether or not we can fly back, or if the Xfinity race gets rained out or not on Saturday. Obviously, if that gets rained out we probably won’t be coming.”
Elliott’s return to the Rattler 250 will be his first since the 2011 season when he was involved in a late-race three-wide battle for the lead with Grant Enfinger and 2014 Southern Super Series champion Bubba Pollard. With 13 laps remaining in that race and while making a three-wide bid for the lead, Elliott made contact with Enfinger, which resulted in Pollard spinning and Elliott being penalized to the rear of the field.
Despite the tough break in 2011, redemption won’t be on his mind as he enters the race once again. He simply wants to add another prestigious Super Late Model win to his resume that already includes wins at the Snowball Derby, All-American 400 and SpeedFest.
“I kind of look at it as just another race to go run,” said the son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott. “It’s a race that we’d like to run well at just like any other race. I don’t really look at it as redemption I don’t think. We would certainly love to have a good run there and hopefully we can just be competitive and try to give those guys a run for their money.”
If Elliott does end up in victory lane at the end of the 250-lap event that day, he’ll have to face yet another problem. As is tradition at the Rattler 250, the winner of the race will pose with a rattlesnake around their neck during post-race ceremonies.
“You’ve gotta get there first,” Elliott said with a laugh. “That will be a great thing to worry about. I do not like snakes, but that will be a good problem to have down there.”
For more information on the 39th Rattler 250 weekend at South Alabama Speedway, the opening event of the 2015 Southern Super Series season, visit www.southernsuperseries.com and www.southalabamaspeedway.
For more information on the Southern Super Series, visit SouthernSuperSeries.com. The Facebook page for the Southern Super Series is located at www.facebook.com/southernsuperseries. The series is also on Twitter at @SoSuperSeries. For advertising or sponsorship questions, please contact the track representatives. For media inquiries, please contact Matt Kentfield at 51 Sports via [email protected]
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com