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Chase Young returns for second NASCAR race, thanks fans for sticking with him through injury

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Commanders defensive end Chase Young interacts with fans during pre-race activities at Richmond Raceway. Young, the No. 2 overall pick in 2020, is recovering from a torn ACL.

Earlier this year, Chase Young visited his friend, NASCAR driver Chase Elliott, at Richmond’s spring race.

Sunday, he was back, but with an official role — he was scheduled to drive the pace car before the Federated Auto Parts 400.

“Growing up, I didn’t really watch NASCAR,” said Young. “But getting that first time coming, I just had to come again.”

Young, who did declare himself a star go-kart driver, updated the progress of his rehab from a knee injury. Coach Ron Rivera has previously said Young will miss the start of the season.

“I’m squatting big weight, I’m running fast. I think I reached 18 miles per hour the other day. Running half-gassers, cutting, shuffling, so it’s on the right path,” the defensive end said.

During training camp practices and scrimmages this year, Young has been a fan favorite, and is often the last player back into the locker room after signing autographs. He said that’s his way of thanking the fans for sticking with him through the injury.

“Usually, when somebody goes down they get a lot of bad things said about them,” Young said. “I really didn’t get too many bad things said about me. So basically just being appreciative of that and showing love back.

“Just my motivation to get back in and get going on the right foot.”

During his day at the track, Young did a Q&A for fans, where he shared that his first purchase after signing his NFL contract was a Rolls-Royce, and he’s now up to six dogs at his spacious ranch, having added two puppies to the mix this offseason.

Young’s position group has a new coach as of last week, former assistant defensive ends coach Jeff Zgonina, and Young said the group is responding well.

“Big Zgonina, he played 17 years. Knows the game. It’s different when you played it,” Young said. “A dude that’s gonna come to work every day with big energy, and, you know, hold us accountable, and coach us hard and be on us, and that’s definitely something I look forward to.”

Of the team as a whole, after Saturday’s first preseason game, Young said: “I think the vibe on the team is real good right now. I think we’ve got a toughness mentality. ... I think everybody’s bringing it to the table.”

He added that he was a big fan of the Commanders new helmets in the afternoon sun.

Young and Elliott, NASCAR’s most popular driver, met while endorsing A SHOC energy beverages, and have stayed in touch since.

That might make Young the only person in the Commanders orbit not cheering for a Joe Gibbs driver on Sunday.

There was a higher level of star power at the track, though — on learning that Michael Jordan was at Richmond Raceway, Young said he’d do his best to track him down at some point.

Wrapping up, Young added a Jordan-esque pronouncement about his rehab and return from injury: “I’ll be ready to go. When I’m ready to go, just watch out.”

mphillips@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6546

Twitter: @michaelpRTD

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