With four races to go in the 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series season, a lot of things can still happen in regards to the championship.
But it’s getting harder to foresee any other outcome besides 18-year-old Chase Elliott emerging with the big prize at Homestead.
Elliott takes a 38-point lead over JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith into tonight’s 300-miler at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
With three wins and an average finish of 8.0 this season, it’d be stunning to see Elliott make a self-inflicted error at this point of the year. And his luck’s been holding out too, as he’s dodged potentially disastrous incidents in each of the last two races.
Smith’s poor run last weekend at Kansas has helped create a clear path for Elliott: Finish in the Top-5 in each of the last four races, and it’s done.
And the mission is also clear for Elliott – namely, keep doing what you’ve been doing.
“Everybody is different when you get into situations when you’re battling for something,” Elliott said to the Charlotte Observer on Thursday. “It’s good to ask questions, but in your own way, you’ve got to figure out things and work through the stress that is on the team.
“I try to keep it as simple as possible and stress-free as I can and take it a week at a time. I put a lot of emphasis on that and hopefully we’re still in the hunt when it counts.”
As for Smith, who had a broken sway bar arm relegate him to a 22nd-place finish in Kansas, he’s now having to deal with Ty Dillon for runner-up honors in the standings.
Dillon has been on an impressive run as of late with 11 Top-10 finishes in the last 12 races (a run that includes his win at Indianapolis in July), and that’s helped bring him within two points of Smith.
Three 1.5-mile tracks in the last four races of the season has Dillon feeling good about his chances of getting another checkered flag before the year is out.
“Our 1.5-mile program has been stellar this entire season,” he said this week. “We’ve been able to knock off some Top-5 finishes, our teammate Brendan (Gaughan) got a victory in Kentucky and we just feel very confident in our program.
“You have to really credit ECR Engines for giving us the power and our guys for really building a strong notebook. I think if we stay focused on what we’ve been doing these past few weeks, a win is inevitable.”
Smith on the other hand will try to pull himself and the No. 7 team back up tonight.
“We’re going to do everything we can to get another win before this season’s end,” he said. “And it’s far from over. You never know how things will shake out by year’s end. So we’re looking forward to racing Charlotte under the lights.”