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Hometown racer draws crowd

POSTED: April 22, 2014 4:36 p.m.
Michele Hester Dawson Community News/

Willy Southerland of Jasper gets NASCAR driver Chase Elliott to autograph a die-cast truck at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame last week.

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Coming off back-to-back wins in NASCAR's Nationwide Series, Chase Elliott came home to Dawsonville on Wednesday and was greeted by a couple hundred fans ready to meet their hometown hero.

Seven-year-old Tanner Trammel, who family and friends agree is among the racer's biggest fans, could not contain his excitement as he waited in line at the Georgia Hall of Fame to meet Elliott and get his autograph.

"Tanner is his biggest fan," said friend Brea Crane. "He just loves [watching him race] so much. He loves watching Chase Elliott. He gets so excited watching him that he's just jumping up and down."

Jim Whitehead and his son Tyler drove in from Cleveland, Tenn., to meet Elliott. When they were in town a week earlier, they purchased a door panel from the driver's last late model win as a keepsake.

"[Tyler] sat down next to it up front where [the museum] had it for sale, and he wasn't going to leave without me buying it, so I bought it, and now I'm back to have it signed today," Whitehead said.

Growing up watching the racing career of "Awesome Bill from Dawsonville," Chase Elliott's Winston Cup Champion dad, Whitehead said he sees a lot of the 1987 champ in the younger Elliott.

"[Bill] was so down to earth and Chase is like his dad," Whitehead said. "He's such a good kid for these young guys to look up to. He's such a great, down to earth kid, and I'm so glad my son can have him as a role model."

Ty Fox, 15, and Gus Mauldin, 14, who arrived a bit late after Elliott had signed about 300 autographs and was walking toward the museum's back door, agreed.

Only a few years older than his teen fans, Elliott stopped and chatted with the pair before heading out.

"It was an honor to meet him," said Mauldin.

In his first trip to the famed Darlington Raceway, Elliott on April 11 became the track's youngest winner and the youngest back-to-back winner in NASCAR's Nationwide Series history.

The win, which followed the 18-year-old's first career victory a week earlier at Texas Motor Speedway, puts Elliott 13 points ahead of teammate Regan Smith as he contends for the series championship.

"Back-to-back wins, that's pretty impressive for his age," said Fox. "I'm pretty excited about this."

Chase Elliott, who signed autographs for nearly two hours, said he couldn't be more proud to be in Dawsonville with his hometown fans.

"It's good to have this here at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame and to have the support here at home has been great to come home to. It's good to be here today," he said.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to Richmond International Raceway for the Toyotacare 250 Friday night.



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