Racing bloodlines run deep at The Rock

jutter@charlotteobserver.comApril 13, 2013 

Veterans Bill Elliott, Dave Blaney and Ward Burton have together made 95 career NASCAR national series starts at Rockingham Speedway, all coming before the iconic track closed following the 2004 season.

Last year, the track got a new life, hosting a NASCAR Truck Series race for the first time.

And this year, those three famous NASCAR surnames return together again to race at the track.

But this is a family reunion of a younger generation.

Chase Elliott, 17, and Ryan Blaney, 19, will make their first Truck Series starts at Rockingham in Sunday’s N.C. Education Lottery 200 (2 p.m., Speed). Jeb Burton, Ward’s 20-year-old son, ran in the inaugural Truck Series race at The Rock last season and finished a respectable 11th.

All three upstarts are no strangers to racing.

While their three respective fathers battled together in the NASCAR’s Cup Series over the years, the three sons generally found themselves around each other in the infield.

“I remember growing up with Jeb at the track,” said Blaney, who at 18 became the youngest winner in the Truck Series last season in his third race with Brad Keselowski Racing.

“He and I were closer to the same age when our dads were racing. Bill (Elliott) was kind of getting out of it by the time we were old enough to really roam around by ourselves, and Chase was younger.”

Racing may have been the family business, but kids will be kids.

“The (Motor Racing Outreach) playground was obviously the hangout,” said Chase. “That was just a fact.

“If you weren’t at the playground on race weekend, you weren’t at the race track. That’s just the way it was.”

All three of the younger generation drivers have received extensive guidance in their racing careers from their fathers.

Bill Elliott and Ward Burton are generally on hand in the pits or on the spotter’s stand for their respective sons’ races. Dave Blaney is as well, but still must balance his time with his son with his fulltime Cup Series ride.

“It’s just like every other father – he wants to see me do well and succeed,” said Jeb Burton, who is currently second in the Truck Series standings after two races.

“When I do really well, he’s emotional because it means something to him. He knows how badly I want to do it and I’m good at it, so that’s really cool when everything comes together.”

Ryan and Dave Blaney will compete at several of the same tracks this season and at least once in the same race. Both are running in the series’ inaugural dirt track race in July at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.

“He’s a huge help when he’s at the track, which is 90 percent of the races, and he’s always the first one to stick his head in the window and tell me what he thinks,” Ryan said of his dad.

Chase imagines it must be an unusual perspective for his father, when he’s watching Chase race at places like Rockingham.

“To go from racing on a track like this just a few years ago to sitting on the pit box – that’s going to be a little different for sure.”

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