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Young Elliott’s career on track

POSTED: February 11, 2014 9:38 a.m.
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It's been more than 25 years since Bill Elliott won the Winston Cup Championship and thrust Dawsonville into the spotlight as a powerhouse racing community.

Fast forward to 2014 and the Elliott name is again creating a buzz in the sport. This time, however, it's not the legendary "Awesome Bill from Dawsonville" making the headlines, it's his son Chase, who turned 18 in November and became eligible for competition in NASCAR's Nationwide Series.

Bill Elliott said he welcomes his son carrying on the family's legacy.

"We are just very thankful for Chase to have this kind of an opportunity to race in Nationwide in his first full season of eligibility," he said.

In early January, the announcement was made that the younger Elliott would compete full time in the series for JR Motorsports with Atlanta-based NAPA Auto Parts as his primary sponsor for 2014.

JR Motorsports is the professional race team and management company for Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR's 11-time Most Popular Driver and winner of more than 40 NASCAR-sanctioned races.

Chase Elliott said the relationship with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the auto parts giant was nearly as big a surprise to him.

"We weren't aware that this was going to come together until just a few weeks before the announcement. We hope this is a very successful and long-term relationship," Chase Elliott said.

Fans believe the partnership is exactly what the young driver needs.

"I can see him go pass Bill's career," said local racing historian Gordon Pirkle. "He got started so much earlier and with sponsors like NAPA and driving for Dale Jr. ... that's going to be something to see."

Taking his career to the top of the sport has always been the younger Elliott's goal.

"I'm just happy to have the opportunity that I have," he said.

He admits growing up with a NASCAR champion dad had its perks, but "at the end of the day, it's still up to me to get the job done."

His prediction for the season: "We hope to get to victory lane as much as possible, contend for a championship and gain as much experience as possible."

Driving the No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet, he'll run the same number his father carried for much of his storied career. Recently, the pair took the track together in Daytona to test for JRM, an experience Bill Elliott hopes will be a benefit to his son in the coming weeks.

"I enjoyed it a lot and now feel like I will be able to provide information better during speed weeks," he said.

Chase Elliott added: "We both had a lot of fun, and I think he can give me a lot of knowledge as we go back to Daytona for the race here in a couple of weeks."

By taking on the full 33-race schedule, Chase Elliott has the chance to become just the fifth multi-generational NASCAR champion, along with Richard Petty (Lee Petty), Larry Pearson (David Pearson), Dale Jarrett (Ned Jarrett) and Earnhardt (Dale Earnhardt Sr.) have accomplished such a feat.

Bill Elliott's 1988 Sprint Cup title came during a season in which he recorded six of his 44 career wins. He is a two-time champion of the Daytona 500, a member of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, and a 16-time winner of NASCAR's Most Popular Driver Award.

"No doubt, the historical element of this is pretty cool," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said in a statement. "Bill Elliott is one of the greats. I've always looked up to him. He had some great battles with my dad.

"Certainly, the Winston in 1987 is an all-time favorite. It was probably some of the hardest racing you'll see, and it's fun to watch even to this day. I think there are a lot of Elliott fans and Earnhardt fans that will take interest in Chase's career and support him 100 percent."

The elder Elliot is constantly reminded that his fans are following his son's career.

"It really means a lot to me personally to see friends and hometown neighbors meet you in the store or just out at the movies and to say, ‘Hey, we're pulling for Chase, he's doing great,' or, ‘We're really proud of ‘our boy.' It's just great to have that kind of support from your hometown," he said.

Chase Elliott will compete in the Feb. 15 ARCA race at Daytona for Hendrick Motorsports. His first race in the Nationwide Series is Feb. 22.

Both will be televised live on the big screen at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame. A viewing party is at 4:15 p.m. Feb. 15 and 1:15 p.m. Feb. 22 planned for the community.

For more information about the parties, call (706) 216-7223.

 

 

 

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