Chase Elliot the next Jeff Gordon? Well lets see...
Before I start on the critique of young Chase Elliot I want to state that I am a fan of the young driver. I am not a #1 fan but I like the kid. I will try my best not the be biased, and look at the 19 years old from an objective angle.
Chase Elliot. The young up and coming hotshot that has the garage going wild. He has the potential to be the best rookie to enter the Cup series since, well last season when Kyle Larson came along. Chase is young, fast, and the personality to drive NASCAR to new places. Of course with a little help from his dad a NASCAR legend, Bill Elliot, Chase has came into his own in NASCAR's lower divisions.
Chase may have a small resume at the moment, but those small accomplishments go along way. He won the 2011 Snowball Derby (annual non-NASCAR related event), has won races in the K&N Pro East series, Arca Racing series, Camping World Truck Series win at Bowmanville Road-Course, and 3 Xfinity Series win. Also, don't forget his 2014 Xfinity Series Championship that he locked up after 32 of 33 events.
Chase has proven that he belongs in good equipment, and has even locked up a Cup series ride for next season. Now, in case you missed it, Jeff Gordon has announced he is retiring after 20 plus years of competition. The 4 time champion made the announcement in early 2015, which left many to question who the fourth driver at Hendrick Motorsports will be. Well all those answers came very early in the season when Hendrick Motorsports announced that the legendary #24 will continue to be used, and will be filled by young Chase Elliot.
Now, put aside the argument that the #24 should be retired, Gordon himself said he would like the see the number stay in the sport. Also, throw out the garbage that Chase doesn't deserve the ride. Yes, are there other drivers that have been racing longer and deserves a shot, but if you couldn't predict that Chase would take this ride, you are blind. Chase has raced for JR Motorsports for a few years in lower divisions, which makes the step to Hendrick almost predictable.
Chase has been signed under Hendrick since he was 14, and his talent is too much to not use him at the Cup level. Now, back to the subject, will Chase be a boom or bust? My prediction is that Chase WILL be a future Cup series champion. Chase may only have two Cup starts but looks to keep growing. His first start at Martinsville was a rough one, with Chase finishing 38th, but Richmond showed some signs of the future. Chase finished 16th, which may not be impressive to most, but at one point in the race Chase has some of the fastest laps of the day. Chase has a handful of starts left for this season which only gives him more room to grow, and I expect a top-10 or two before the seasons over.
So I have said I think he will be a champion, but could he be as good or better than Jeff Gordon? My answer is YES. Now, remember I said COULD not WOULD he be better. I say there is a potential for this to happen because Chase Elliot is the perfect 'package'. He can run well, is young and new, and has a great personality. NASCAR fans love an easy going driver who relates, and Chase has that. He is a southern boy who has been around and has a little flavor from his father. With success will come more and more opportunities to work with new sponsors and fans, something Chase handles well already.
The chances of Chase becoming a 4-time champion and winning 90 plus races is not a sure thing, but one thing is for sure, he has a chance. He is starting young and looks to be apart of the sport for the next 20-30 years. Chase has what it takes to be the face of NASCAR now and beyond.