Racing

Chase Elliott is leading the next generation of NASCAR drivers

Though he hasn’t taken the checkered flag yet on the NASCAR Monster Energy circuit, stock car racing scion Chase Elliott has taken the sport by storm. He’s won five times on the XFINITY level and twice in the Camping World Truck Series, he was the 2016 NASCAR Rookie of the Year, and he sits fourth in the points going into the Coca-Cola 600.

And while Bill Elliott’s son may be chasing his dad’s legacy of 44 NASCAR Cup wins, he’s focusing more on building his own track record.

In an interview with FoxNews.com, the 21-year-old driver talked about racing towards his first trip to victory lane, entertaining fans on and off the track and why it’s so important to salute America’s troops and veterans.

FOX: Your father was a racing icon. Did you always dream of following in his career path?

Elliott: I hoped that it would work out like that. I didn’t want to do anything else growing up. It worked out. I had some good opportunities because of his racing. I’ve been lucky from that standpoint.

You’ve got to do your job regardless. Opportunities are opportunities, but you’ve got to perform and do your part to stay around.

FOX: You’re carving your own path. Rookie of the Year last year, fourth in NASCAR Cup standings this year. It’s early — but what do you want to be known for? What kind of legacy do you want to build during your career?

Elliott: The first thing, you just want to make it and stay around for a little while. You’ve got to do your job to do that. Obviously, I’ve got some work to do there with the goose egg in the win column.

You’ve got to perform to stay here. That’s the first goal, is to try to make that happen. From that point, you try to do it consistently. If you do that, hopefully you’ll have a job for years to come.

FOX: What’s it like to be on the storied Hendrick team with a group of veteran drivers in Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne? Not to mention the veteran crew and management. Do you tap into their knowledge and experience?

Elliott: As much as you can. Those are valuable tools; I think we all lean on each other as much as you can. It’s as valuable as you make it — the ability to go and talk to a guy or seek out info. It’s your own fault if you’re not seeking out that opportunity. We’re all very involved in what we do, in meetings and constantly talking and sharing information and things like that.

FOX: It’s Memorial Day Weekend, and NASCAR will be saluting the troops at the Coca-Cola 600 (Sunday, 6 p.m. ET, on FOX). How does it make you feel during these on-track tributes?

Elliott: None of us would be able to do what we do in life in general without the men and women who fight for our country, and at the end of the day that’s the most important thing…

NASCAR does a nice job honoring the men and women in uniform who fight and are willing to risk their lives to let us do what we want every day, and I think we’re all very lucky to have that opportunity.

Every weekend, I feel like there’s something going on centered around troops. This weekend is one of the biggest weekends. We all honor [fallen military members] above the windshield. Before the race, there’s a big event on the front straightaway, and they have guys rappelling out of helicopters. They honor the men and women who serve. That’s a pretty cool moment for all of us to be a part of.

FOX: NASCAR and racing are interwoven into the fabric of many Americans’ lives. What’s the experience like for you?

Elliott: I think NASCAR and racing have been around for a long time. I certainly enjoy it, and there’s a lot of connects to people. People drive to work every day, and there’s a lot of genuine connection there. If people are interested in seeing that, building into that, I’m proud of what I’m a part of. I love what I do, and I’m lucky to have the opportunities I have to go race, and that’s all I can ask for.

FOX: NASCAR’s still in transition as ratings and attendance haven’t recovered from the recession. And racing, like other sports, is grappling with ways to lure the elusive millennial generation. As a millennial, how are you trying to attract younger fans — through social media or other ways?

Elliott: I’m being myself. At the end of the day, that’s all you can do. You can’t make somebody like something. You have to find a genuine interest and genuine spark. If you can find that genuine interest in somebody and introduce them to it in the right way and they can relate it to something they do, or to a driver or personality, I think that genuine relationship and finding something you might be able to share with somebody is what everybody looks for.

I don’t do a ton of social media. I post what I want to post. I don’t overly post. When I find something’s entertaining or interests me, I post. But I certainly don’t just do it to do it.

FOX: Do you feel any pressure to help grow the sport with younger fans?

Elliott: It’s what you believe in or think is the right way. For me, I’m a big believer in entertainment factor. I think what we do on the racetrack’s entertaining. I think people will come watch. I think it will spark interest if it’s entertaining, if we give it our best shot, to do what’s best for you and try to win the race. That selfishness in wanting to win and wanting to beat next guy is what sparks entertainment. I think if we do that to the best of our abilities, people will come watch and follow along, and that’s all you can ask for.

FOX: You are one of several NASCAR drivers voicing vehicles in the upcoming Walt Disney Pixar animated feature, “Cars 3.” How was that experience?

Elliott: It was very cool. “Cars” is such a great franchise of movies, and they’ve done such a great job connecting with young kids and building that. It’s pretty incredible, very neat to be a part of it. When I saw the first one, I never thought I’d ever have a part in one. It’s different. You definitely have to get out of your comfort zone to do it. But the folks at Pixar and everyone I worked with helped me. Hopefully it turns out well and people will really enjoy it.

FOX: Think you’ll do more entertainment? Any projects on tap?

Elliott: No projects right now. We’ll have to wait and see what comes up, but I’m just trying to go fast right now.