With a lucrative NASCAR Sprint Cup career looming on the horizon, no one seems to know when Chase Elliott will next pilot a Super Late Model.
So right or wrong, his victory on Sunday in the Snowball Derby was viewed as a sort of conclusion to one of the most impressive stretches of short track racing history. He graduates to the No. 24 next season having accomplished nearly everything he set out to do in a relatively short amount of time.
His accomplishments make him not only one of the best of his era, but also amongst the best ever.
Consider that Elliott is the only driver to have won all four races of the Super Late Model Grand Slam, which is made up of the Derby, All-American 400, Winchester 400 and World Crown 300.
Those victories have come against the absolute best of the best, including Kyle Busch, Erik Jones and Bubba Pollard — not to mention each region’s local heroes.
Perhaps most impressive is the reputation that he and his team earned while at the height of their dominance back in 2013. When rival drivers saw the No. 9 hauler arrive, they all knew they were racing for second and simply had to make peace with it.
And while the short track community is fiercely competitive with each other, they’ve also managed to forge a deep respect for Elliott and crew chief Ricky Turner, many of them praising their professionalism and willingness to give back to the discipline they both love.
While Elliott has helped forged the modern identity of Super Late Model racing, he’s also aware of how it has shaped him too. Before racing against the likes of Busch, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, Elliott was taught race craft by Mike Garvey, Casey Smith and Preston Peltier.
They might have taught him too much, as it wasn’t long before he was beating each of them with regularity.
Elliott won his first touring championship in 2009 as a 14-year-old in the Georgia Asphalt Series. He followed that up with a Five Flags Speedway crown in 2010. It was 2011 that he really started to rack up the hardware, picking up his first victories in the Derby and CRA Speedfest.
Sure, he’s always had good equipment but he’s never proven himself unworthy of it either, an attribute that has carried over to his NASCAR career as well.
For over half a decade, Elliott spearheaded the resurgence of Super Late Model racing in the United States. His success was also shared by the industry.
So while his full-time stay in the discipline was brief, Chase Elliott left the sport better than how he found it and that alone makes him one of the great ones.