DARLINGTON, SC - We have seen the future, and it's painted with the numbers "9" and "42."
Driving Chevrolets adorned with those car numbers, NASCAR neophytes Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson staged a remarkable battle in Friday night's NASCAR Nationwide Series VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway.
Driving as hard as they could and significantly over the edge of control, Elliott, 18, and Larson, 21, waged an all-out battle for the second position after a restart on Lap 99.
Both cars slid sideways, as the young drivers fought for control.
Ultimately, Elliott won the race-his second straight victory in the series-and Larson, a first-time winner at Fontana, CA, earlier this season, came home sixth.
After the race, Elliott marveled that he was sitting at the dais in the media center, rather than watching his car hauled from the track on a wrecker.
"There was definitely one (instance) that I can think of where I thought our night was 100 percent finished," Elliott acknowledged. "I thought both of us were getting ready to pile it up pretty big, along with probably some more cars behind us.
"I have no idea how both of us held on to that, and he did a really good job holding on to it, and it kind of gave me something to lean up against while I was trying to save it. That was a crazy lap or so there. We raced really hard, he's fun to race with, and fortunately, we raced each other pretty clean."
Clean, yes, but neither driver hesitated to make a move when he had a slight advantage, and both have exhibited phenomenal instincts at very early stages in their stock car careers. Elliott hopes the competition can continue for years.
"I'd like to think so," said Elliott, who along with Larson has been a member of the sport's NASCAR Next program, designed to spotlight future stars. "Kyle's obviously a talented guy, and he's earned his place in the sport, for sure."