BRISTOL — It was really no surprise that a teenager paced morning testing for the UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Although second-generation driver Chase Elliott had never been in a Camping World Truck Series machine on the high-banked short track, he had plenty of not-so secret weapons.
Besides driving a No. 94 Chevrolet for the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports team, the 17-year-old son of former NASCAR champion Bill Elliott had three former NASCAR Cup Series crew chiefs working with him. They included: Pete Wright, a former crew chief for Darrell Waltrip and Terry Labonte and Lance McGrew, most noted for working with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Most important was Billy Wilburn, who was a part of so many of Rusty Wallace’s Bristol wins.
“We have a lot of information, a lot of guys I can lean to for help,” Elliott said. “Obviously having Billy here at Bristol doesn’t hurt. He’s a really good guy, easy to talk to. We’re on the same page a lot of times. It’s always good with both him and Lance, we know what each other is talking about and that goes a long ways in this sport.”
Elliott wasn’t the only driver from a famous racing family to test the high banks.
Jeb Burton, the 21-year-old son of former Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton, wasn’t driving. But, he was hanging around the Turner-Scott Motorsports pits watching his teammate Ben Kennedy try to get around the high-banked oval.
“Since I’ve never raced here, I came here today,” Burton said. “I’ve been watching my teammates and seeing what they think. We’ve been fast all year, but we’ve been struggling the last couple of weeks.”
Kennedy comes from stock car racing’s most influential family.
He is the son of International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy and the nephew of NASCAR Chairman Brian France.
He’s no stranger to racing at Bristol with top-10 finishes in each of the last two K&N East Series races at the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile.”
“This is a really cool track, a cool place to make my debut,” Kennedy said. “You carry a lot of speed here and things happen really quick. I learned that off (turn) two. Earlier this morning, I spun it out, but I’m trying to pick it up. I’m working with the crew, testing a lot of different stuff.”
Elliott will be making his fifth Truck Series start of the season. It is his second time racing at Bristol after he both qualified and finished 10th in the K&N East Series race in 2012.
“This looks a little different than most short tracks, more intimidating than your typical half-mile,” Elliott said. “But when it comes down to it, it still comes down to the same things. You want to make the straightaways long as possible, and getting your car where it will drive good during the race. That’s why we’re here.”
Burton has been a contender throughout his first full season in the trucks. He won earlier this season at Texas and has been in the top five in the points all season long. He currently ranks second in the standings, 52 points behind leader Matt Crafton.
Bristol is a different challenge, however, although he’s heard plenty about the place from his father and his uncle Jeff, who won the 2008 Food City 500.
“My dad said this was always one of his favorite tracks, and my uncle said the same thing,” Burton said. “It’s a fun, high-banked short track with a lot of speed, and I think we can run good here.”
Kennedy said his uncle as well as the rest of his family has been supportive of his move to one of NASCAR’s three national series. However, there will be extra pressure on him to perform once the green flag waves on the UNOH 200.
“He’s really excited about it, as my whole family has been super excited,” Kennedy said. “I think they’re all going to be here for that race so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Elliott said last names really don’t matter once the racing begins. From that point, it’s who can do the best job and have the highest finish after 200 laps.
“Jeb or anybody will tell you, once we get down to it, it doesn’t matter what your last name is or what family you come from,” Elliott said. “When it comes down to it, you have to get the job done because they can’t drive the car for you. You have to do that on your own.”