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Awesome week for the Elliotts
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Bill Elliott

Typically remembered as a fierce competitor and a popular ambassador for stock car racing, Dawsonville racing champion Bill Elliott can add another title to his mantle NASCAR Hall of Famer.

The day before Elliotts induction ceremony, his son Chase Elliott, 19, was named to succeed four-time Sprint Cup winner, Jeff Gordon, starting in 2016.

The elder Elliott received the highest honor in the sport Friday night as he was one of five drivers inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in downtown Charlotte.

The 59-year-old was the headline attraction for a 2015 class that also included the first African-American race winner and a midwestern superstar that altered the perception of where NASCAR drivers were born and raised.

Included in the 2015 class is Elliott, Rex White, Wendell Scott, Joe Weatherly and Fred Lorenzen.

For anyone not familiar with racing, Awesome Bill from Dawsonville was the 1988 Sprint Cup Series champion, a 44-race winner and the first driver to win the Winston Million bonus in 1985 for winning three of the four NASCAR crown jewel events in a single season -- the Daytona 500, Talladega 500 and Southern 500.

He was also celebrated for an unmatched adoration from his fans, having won the NASCAR Most Popular Driver Award 16 times over 21 full-time seasons.

In addition, he also has two victories in the Daytona 500 and three in the Southern 500 (Darlington), making Elliott one of the most decorated racing champions of his era.

Elliott was introduced by Kasey Kahne, the former top prospect that replaced him in the No. 9 car for Evernham Motorsports following the 2003 Sprint Cup Series season. He was then inducted by Ray Evernham himself, the crew chief and car owner who revived his career in the early 2000s.

During his induction speech, Elliott recalled the days of his youth when he was a young driver from a small north Georgia town with big dreams that just couldnt be contained by the boundaries of Dawson County.

He spoke of his father, George, and the pioneers that paved the path he would later walk -- pioneers that are now fellow inductees in the Hall of Fame.

Growing up in a small town in Dawsonville and thinking about it, dreaming about it, listening to the guys on the radio that carved the way, that paved the direction of where you needed to go and the things you needed to do, its just incredible, Elliott said. At a young age, I dreamed of doing this ...

My dad was so involved in racing (and) he had such a love for the sport. Ive always said he was such a Ford fanatic, that if you cut him, he bled Ford blue. Thats just the way the man was. He was just so involved. He helped so many local racers from the area, and it was totally incredible.

The week will go down as a high-water mark for the Elliott family as Bill was inducted just one day after his 19-year- old son, Chase, was named by Hendrick Motorsports as the driver who will ultimately succeed four-time Sprint Cup winner, Jeff Gordon, in his iconic No. 24 Chevrolet starting in 2016.

Georgia Racing Hall of Fame President Gordon Pirkle says Bill put Dawsonville back on the map as a racing destination.

Long before NASCAR was founded in 1948, Lloyd Seay and Roy Hall, local moonshine runners, won national stock car championships out of Dawson County.

NASCAR, under the leadership of Bill France Jr., distanced itself from that backstory in attempts to take the sport away from its southeastern roots.

The elder Elliotts arrival in the 1980s revived discussions about the sports charming but illicit background.

Bill saved that history, Pirkle said. If Bill hadnt come along, Bill France Jr. was going to make the sport major league while sweeping the moonshine stuff under the rug. But Bill brought that back. Dawsonville won 11 national championships before NASCAR was founded.

I dont want to take anything away from NASCAR, but Bill really maintained our history with his success.

Pirkle has preserved a lot of history himself between the GRHOF and the Dawsonville Pool Room. As a result, he shares a special connection with the Elliott family and found himself overwhelmed with emotion during the enshrinement on Friday night.

It was tremendous, Pirkle said. I cant describe the feeling to see him go in there. To see him come from a small town and making it like he did, it was overwhelming for a lot of us in Dawsonville.

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