No place like home: Chase Elliott earns first career NNS pole at Atlanta

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HAMPTON, Ga. – Chase Elliott has won three races thus far in his rookie season on the NASCAR Nationwide Series circuit.

But the son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott has never won a pole position in the NNS – until Saturday.

The younger Elliott earned his first pole in 24 starts – and the sixth different driver to get his first career NNS pole – this season.

The only driver to crack 180 mph, Elliott’s speed of 180.240 mph paced the field for Saturday night’s Great Clips 300 to Feed the Children. The 18-year-old Elliott grew up in suburban Atlanta and considers AMS his home track.

“This is a big weekend for me, hometown for me and (primary sponsor) NAPA,” Elliott told ESPN. “My dad has given me a little bit of advice. We’re looking forward to the race tonight, hope the rain stays away and we finish where we start.”

Elliott, who earned a pole while racing part-time in the Camping World Truck Series last season (at Bristol), becomes the youngest pole-winner at AMS, breaking a 22-year-old record now previously held by Sprint Cup star Jeff Gordon.

Elliott also comes into tonight’s race atop the NNS points standings with a 13-point lead.

Kyle Larson made a late burst in the closing minutes to vault up to the No. 2 position with a top speed of 179.510 mph.

Kyle Busch was third-fastest (179.487 mph), followed by Joey Logano (179.441), Elliott Sadler (178.677), Matt Kenseth (178.551), Trevor Bayne (178.436), Kevin Harvick (178.246), Brian Scott (177.983) and David Ragan (177.312).

Regan Smith was 11th-fastest (177.119), followed by Ryan Reed (176.274).

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Rinus VeeKay to drive for Ed Carpenter Racing in 2020

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Ed Carpenter Racing has signed 2019 Indy Lights runner-up Rinus VeeKay to drive the full 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, the team announced Wednesday.

VeeKay will drive the No. 21 Chevrolet previously occupied by Spencer Pigot.

“I’m so happy!” the 19-year-old driver from the Netherlands said in a press release. “It’s a dream come true and something we have worked extremely hard for over the last couple of years. To step up from USF2000 to the NTT IndyCar Series in three years is really special.”

In his maiden Indy Lights season this year, VeeKay collected six race victories and seven pole potions. VeeKay previously won the 2018 Indy Pro 2000 championship, and finished second in the 2017 USF2000 standings.

VeeKay’s success in the ladder series caught the attention of Carpenter, who gave VeeKay the opportunity to first test for the team at Portland International Raceway in August.

“I have been following Rinus’s path through the Road to Indy, especially the past two years,” Carpenter said. “It was clear to me that he deserves to be in an Indy car. After his first day in a car at Portland this past season, that feeling became even more apparent. His pace, feedback and demeanor inside the car was very impressive for such a young driver.”

As a driver, Carpenter will be VeeKay’s teammate during the five oval races in 2020, once again returning to the team’s No. 20 entry. An announcement on which driver will pilot the No. 20 on the road and street circuits will be made at a later time.

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