The successor to Dale Earnhardt Jr. as most popular driver? Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson think that’s a no brainer.
“I really think Chase Elliott is our biggest tie to our grassroots NASCAR fan,” Harvick said Wednesday on Daytona 500 media day and reported by ESPN. “I’ve said this a number of times, but I feel like he’s one of the most important ingredients in what NASCAR racing does going forward, because of his family name.”
Elliott certainly has the legacy. His father, Bill, is in the Motorsports and NASCAR hall of fame, and was voted one of the 50 greatest drivers ever in NASCAR. This season, Chase Elliott will drive the No. 9 made famous by his father.
Jimmie Johnson had a succinct answer to the Most Popular Driver question.
“I think (Elliott has) already won the 2018 Most Popular Driver Award,” he said.
If being most popular comes along, Elliott won’t object.
“I think by this point, if people are still following along, they’re following along because of the person I am, I hope. I think that’s all you can ask for. I’ve been very clear and honest about me being me, wanting people to follow along for the right reasons, finding a true connection with someone.”
In 77 career races, Elliott has 22 top-5 finishes with seven of them being second place finishes. He also has the strong support of Rick Hendrick.
“You have to look at what’s good for NASCAR and Chase in the No. 9 car is good for NASCAR,” Hendrick said. “There are a tremendous amount of grass-roots fans that pull for Bill Elliott and the No. 9.
“I knew from the very beginning, he’d drop these little hints so if it means that much to him, it means that much to the sport and to the fans then I’m all in,” Hendrick added. “I’m excited about the No. 9 and I’m waiting for that first win.”