All eyes were on rookie Sprint Cup driver Chase Elliott before he ever gripped the wheel of the famed No. 24 Chevrolet this year.
As the son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott and the successor to four-time champion Jeff Gordon at Hendrick Motorsports, the shadows of racing legends and fan expectations loomed for the young talent even during his reign as the 2014 Xfinity series champion.
The younger Elliott grew up racing go-karts and late models while watching his father compete in NASCAR-sanctioned events long after Bill's 1988 Cup championship. But for Chase, 20, of Dawsonville, Ga., the realization that the baton had officially been passed didn't set in until he headed to Daytona International Speedway in February.
"I think a lot of it kind of sank in going to Daytona, and heading down to the Daytona 500 to not watch (Bill) race was weird," Chase said. "It was interesting to go through all the same motions, except knowing I wasn't there just to watch."
Chase has lived up to the expectations by becoming one of only three rookies to ever make the Chase for the Championship. He has no wins but nine top-five showings, the most by a rookie since Carl Edwards scored 13 in 2005.
"I think I've been lucky to have some good moments over the racing I've done to this point, and I think a lot of the things we went through have led to the opportunities we have today," Chase said.
Bill Elliott had a knack for winning the biggest races. He visited Victory Lane in the Daytona 500 twice and the Southern 500 three times. Today, Chase Elliott faces perhaps the most important race of his life, the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, the second race in the second phase of the Chase for the Championship.
In the Chase for the Championship, Elliott has led the second-most laps in two of the four races, trailing only six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson both times.
"I'm proud of a lot of moments that we've had," Chase said. "I'm not so proud of some, like anybody else, but I definitely don't like to narrow it down to one thing because it wasn't one thing that made everything happen just in the flip of a switch."
Xfinity: Kyle Busch led 150 of 200 laps in a dominant victory in the Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway, his third consecutive series win at the 11/2-mile track. Elliott Sadler was second and Daniel Suarez third, as both title contenders made a nice start in the three-race round of eight of the second-tier series' inaugural Chase.
NHRA: Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) led qualifying for today's Texas Fall Nationals in Ennis