Association to the right people is a good way to get a ticket into the NASCAR Racing world. Names like Elliott, Kenseth and Blaney have already proven themselves in NASCAR’s top three series and now the second-generation wave of drivers with those same last names are coming through.
This is a time when the sport is driven on money and any association to a familiar name is golden. The sad part of today’s NASCAR world is that a fat checkbook can get your kid just about anywhere, even when they can’t drive a hot nail through a snow bank.
Three kids who often get dumped into the ‘daddy’s got money’ category are Chase Elliott, Ross Kenseth and Ryan Blaney. Sometimes overlooked though is their talent while their names are hyped up for short track series and promoters. One thing rings true. All three youngsters can drive and all three likely have a destined future in NASCAR.
“We have a lot to learn and we know that,” said Chase Elliott who is the youngest of the three at 14. “That’s why we come to places like Berlin to race because we know that this is a very talented field of drivers. We don’t always get to race against competition like that.”
Elliott has had a breakout year with six wins in the Late Model ranks in the south. He has victories at tracks Like Gresham, Hickory, Five Flags and Montgomery on his list of achievements. Chase has a solid backing from Ford, Red Bull and Aarons. That quickly allows people to point at the younger Elliott and say he’s only doing this because he’s got money.
“People can say what they want, but they are not in my shoes,” said Chase. “It’s not just get in a car and go, you can show up to a race track and the car might not be good at all. You have to work through it and get it better. If we wrecked the car every week, we would not be running nearly as much as we are. I still have to perform, be smart and not put the car in bad situations.”
While Elliott earns his keep as the youngest winner in practically ever Southeast Late Model Series he waits for at the next level that’s still two season away.
Ross Kenseth is in the same boat, although he’s older at 17. He’s not being rushed into the NASCAR world despite his success and strength of talent. Last year he won the Big 8 Series Championship and sat on the front row for the Snowball Derby.
“People are going to think what they think,” said Ross. “Bottom line is how you finish on the race track. I think we have done pretty well thus far this season and early on in our career.”
Already in 2010, the younger Kenseth has won at Winchester in his first CRA start and he also won at ASA Midwest Tour event at Elko. This all has come while racing a short season due to his geographically challenged location.
“I was looking at Speed51.com quite a bit early on in the year because we have to wait to get our season rolling,” said Kenseth. “I had to sit back and watch the Cup races on TV and wait for the cold and rainy weather to get on out of here so we could go racing. I think it helped us prepare for this year a whole lot more.”
While Ross waited out the thaw in the Midwest, Ryan Blaney, the 2009 PASS South Rookie of the Year, got his season rolling win his first win in March at Dillon. Since then, he has added a pair of victories at Hickory and Greenville and is becoming a contender ever week.
“In two years I have learned a lot about the Late Models,” said Ryan. “Every race teaches you because it’s never the same, even if you’re at the same track. We have had some good luck and a few bad races and some bad luck. You’ll have that in short track racing.”
Blaney is already in contention for a championship in the PASS South ranks which would look great on a resume as he heads to the next level. Several races he goes at it without his Dad who is funding the operation with his cup winnings.
“I am very fortunate to have a father who has been successful in several forms of racing,” said Ryan. It’s
also fortunate for us to be able to go to all these places and run competitively.”
These three have already shown then can produce results on the short tracks, but what’s the future hold. Could all three make it to Sprint Cup?
“I think that would be really cool,” said Chase. “I know Ross and Ryan have proven themselves as good races and those are a couple of guys I don’t mind racing around.”
When the chips are down these three know what they are up against. A name will only take you so far, but winning will make sure you make it too the top.
“Racing is not as easy as it looks,” added Kenseth. “I still have to get in there and produce results.”