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Graduation one day, racing the next for Chase Elliott this weekend

May 16, 2014, 9:15 AM EDT

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A busy weekend has come at last for NASCAR Nationwide Series championship leader Chase Elliott, who will get back to the task of defending his points lead in Sunday’s Get to Know Newton 250 at Iowa Speedway.

But before he takes on Iowa, he’ll be earning his high school diploma.

On Saturday, the 18-year-old son of former Sprint Cup champion Bill Elliott will receive his diploma from the King’s Ridge Christian School in Alpharetta, Georgia.

He won’t have much time, if any, to celebrate with his fellow graduates as qualifying takes place later that night in Iowa.

However, that’s a short-term obstacle. Elliott finds himself facing a long-term one. Now that high school’s done and dusted, the phenom will have to figure out other things to focus on when he isn’t driving for JR Motorsports.

“I think it is important to have a balance of what you do racing-wise and what you do during the week,” Elliott said to the Associated Press.

“It seems like all the Cup guys are having kids right now, and they’re all having them at about the same time. They all talk about that balance away from the race track, and I can understand where they’re coming from.”

The juggling of school and racing certainly hasn’t appeared to affect his performance.

While Elliott is now nursing a one-point lead over Talladega winner Elliott Sadler (and teammate Regan Smith is just three points back), he’s managed to attract plenty of buzz this spring thanks to his back-to-back wins in April at Texas and Darlington.

Outside of a few hiccups on restrictor-plate tracks, Elliott has been steady throughout the NNS season as well, with four Top-5s and seven Top-10 finishes.

And now that he’s done with school, you’d think that his performance would increase even further. Still, he expects that after the summer, he’ll find it strange knowing that he won’t be in a classroom.

“What’s going to be weird is not going back to high school this fall,” he added to the AP. “That’s going to be the deal that makes you sit back and think.

“I’m kind of waiting for that moment.”

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