Coming into the 2014 Nationwide season, it was obvious that Chase Elliott was carrying a lot on his shoulders. A rookie with no prior starts in the series, Elliott was carrying the weight of a new team, a family legacy and the expectations that he would have to live up to as an 18-year-old stock car prodigy.
As the season draws to an end, it's safe to say that Elliott has performed above and beyond expectations.
After 27 events, Elliott has won three times, placed in the top five 13 times and finished in the top 10 21 times. All of that with a pole to boot. But the real kicker is that with only a handful of races left in 2014, Elliott is the current points leader.
Elliott leads JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith by 20 points going into Saturday's Nationwide Series event at Dover, with fellow rookie Ty Dillon trailing by 38 points. Both drivers have proved to be stiff competition, but their 2014 seasons do not compare to Elliott's breakout year. Smith hasn't won since Daytona in February and has scored seven top-fives and 23 top-10s. Dillon broke through at Indy in July and has five top-fives and 20 top-10s.
Elliott's three wins in comparison to Smith's and Dillon's lone wins have certainly helped keep him at the top of the points standings. It also helps that JRM has had a breakthrough year with its Camaros, as the organization has won nine times this season with four drivers.
However, lineage may have a part to play in Elliott's success as well. With a father in 1988 Winston Cup champion Bill Elliott, the younger Elliott has had one of the best teachers in the business, and it shows. The elder Elliott would get the job done quietly, like David Pearson before him and Matt Kenseth later on. He knew what needed to be done, and he would do it.
The same goes for the younger Elliott. Chase is able to push his car without abusing it, and unless he sees a chance at victory, he's not overly aggressive. His late-race passes at Texas and Darlington weren't typical of his style, but that goes to show that he'll push his equipment to the limit when necessary.
If Elliott wins the championship, he'll be the first true rookie to win the title. On top of that, he'll add a degree of legitimacy to the JRM organization and increase his stock as he nears his inevitable Sprint Cup debut.
A championship would serve to cement the legacy of the Elliotts in NASCAR, but it would also cement Chase's legacy as he makes his way to the top in NASCAR.
Follow Joseph on Twitter: @Shelton500.