NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chase Elliott's favorite toy as a young boy was his Matchbox race car. He didn't crash it into walls or run it off tables.
No, he turned that little car in circles.
Now Elliott is doing that with much bigger cars, even though at 13 he's still three years away from legally driving on public roads. Call it the family business, genes or just fate. All the son of NASCAR legend Bill Elliott knows is that he has dreamed of racing in NASCAR just like his father since playing with that little toy.
"I've never really found any other passion for anything," Chase Elliott said. "Racing's been pretty much my dream since I was little."
Though he wasn't around in 1988 when his father won the Winston Cup championship, as Sprint Cup was then known, Elliott has been going to racetracks since he was a baby and has seen plenty of his father's 804 starts on NASCAR's top level and a few of the 44 wins by the Motorsports Hall of Famer.
It's why Elliott started racing dirt bikes and go-karts around the yard as soon as he was big enough to hold the handles and put his foot down.
When he wanted to start competing, he went to his father.
"It's totally up to him," Bill Elliott said. "I'm not pushing him to do it. It's his decision, and when he started wanting to drive, I said, 'That's between you and your mother. You talk your mother into it, and then we'll make it work.'"
Cindy Elliott agreed but only if her son tested himself first with go-karts to see just how much he really liked racing.
Chase Elliott was 8 when he started racing go-karts in northern Georgia. With the family living in Colorado for a couple years, his first full season of came in 2006 and he won the state title in one division and was third in a shifter level against older children. He won six races in 2007 to defend his title in 2007.
That year, he moved into the Legends Racing Series and was rookie of the year at the Atlanta Motor Speedway winning the final two feature races. He won the 2008 Georgia State Championship for the semipro division. In the 2008-09 winter series, he won six races and finished second three times in taking the Winter Flurry Series and Georgia Winter Series titles.
In 2009, Elliott moved up to test himself against older drivers in Late Models and has been just as successful with three wins, including on Aug. 10 at Anderson, S.C., where he became the youngest winner in the history of the ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour.
"We've been pretty fortunate with the luck we've had so far," Elliott said.
He can't even count how many races he's already run with 20 starts this year alone.
Elliott has raced in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and was at the Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville last weekend, finishing eighth in a Champions Racing Association event in which he passed Kyle Busch and did something the NASCAR star couldn't — run all 150 laps.
The advantages of having grown up in the sport are obvious.
Elliott has a slick Web site, sponsors whose name he rattles off easily and includes whenever possible just like an experienced driver, and a talented crew that other drivers trying to work their way up can only envy. His father works as his spotter and is with him at tracks whenever his schedule allows.
If his dad is busy, then his mother or grandmother is with him at every race.
Maybe it comes from watching his father so much over the years, but Chase Elliott is also very polished when talking with reporters and doesn't sound like a typical eighth-grader.
"Growing up around it, I don't know if it necessarily made it easier," he said. "It's definitely a great opportunity to know the people that we know and that could play a big factor."
Elliott has his own demands. Grades can dip no lower than a B, and teachers at King's Ridge Christian School work with his family to help him make up work he missed. Luckily, races now are on weekends.
But being 13 has its challenges.
He can't drive on NASCAR-sanctioned tracks because of an age limit requiring drivers to be at least 16.
"That'll definitely open up some more doors as far as what I can drive. Hopefully, when I'm 16 I can move up to something bigger and get to that next step. Right now, all I really can do is run late models. I think that's plenty for right now."
His dream to compete on NASCAR's top series isn't possible until he turns 18 — when he also will be trying to decide if college is next.
"I still have about five years before we make that decision," Elliott said.
On the Web: www.chaseelliott.com