The sound of the siren at the Dawsonville Pool Room echoed through the streets of downtown Dawsonville Saturday as Chase Elliott, 17, driver of the No. 9 Aaron's-Hendrickscars.com Chevrolet, led the field across the finish line at Pocono Raceway, making him the youngest driver ever to win an ARCA race.
Gordon Pirkle, possibly Elliott's biggest fan, and owner of the historic Pool Room a shrine to Chase's dad Bill Elliott said he knew the news of Chase's victory had spread like wildfire when he received a call from the oldest living NASCAR champion, Rex White.
"He called right after the race and asked if I had set off the siren," Pirkle explained. "He said he had one like the one I have and offered to donate it to me."
Pirkle quoted White as saying, "You're gonna wear yours out if you keep sounding it every time Chase wins. You're gonna need a backup."
The win was a glorious moment for Chase, who once celebrated the same victory with his father, a five-time Pocono winner, on July 28, 2002. Chase was just 10 years old as he watched his dad conquer the Tricky Triangle.
"It was a little over 10 years ago when I was sitting in Victory Lane with dad," Elliott said.
Elliott took advantage of an opportunity when ARCA Racing Series officials created a new ARCA driver approval process under which 17-year-old drivers can be certified to race at Pocono and Kentucky Speedway. Part of the approval process requires 17-year-old drivers to test on the track beforehand, which Elliott participated in all day Wednesday during an ARCA-sanctioned open test.
"It felt so weird coming up here on Tuesday," Chase said. "I'm always used to coming and hanging out and watching dad race."
His dad agreed.
"I autographed a picture earlier today from the last time I was in Victory Lane here in 2002," Bill Elliott said. "Now, 10 years later, here he is in Victory Lane himself in an ARCA car. He did a great job. He was really running hard there at the end, and we were just trying to get through traffic unscathed. I think everything came together. He did real well."
When Friday's ARCA practice and qualifying were cancelled due to rain, current car owner points and provisionals set the field. Elliott was assigned a 32nd-place starting position.
As the green flag unfurled to start the Pocono 200, Elliott immediately began strategizing to move quickly and safely to the front. By the second lap, he had moved up 21 spots to 12th position.
When the first caution flew on Lap 3, Elliott remained on the track and picked up several more positions. On the restart of Lap 9, he continued to pull toward the front and secured the fifth spot after 14 laps.
On Lap 29, Elliott battled to take the third spot from Todd Hessert, driving the No. 77. After passing Hessert, only the No. 35 of 17-year-old Eric Jones and the No. 44 of point-leader and nine-time series champion Frank Kimmell remained in front of him.
Elliott's No. 9 made a green-flag pit stop on Lap 33 to hang Hoosier tires on all four corners, add Sunoco fuel, and release one pound of pressure in the left front tire.
By Lap 39, he had already shifted back into the top 10. After the second caution flag flapped on Lap 44, Elliott moved back into the top 5 by Lap 45.
The third caution came out on Lap 48, when the No. 88 driven by Buster Graham spun out and the No. 44 of Kimmell wiggled to the top where no other car had been, contacting the wall and causing damage to the right front.
After the fourth and final caution, Elliott had pulled into the second spot.
With 23 laps to go on the green flag, Elliott was in hot pursuit of race leader Tom Hester, driver of the No. 77. Elliott passed Hester on the outside when he dropped down on the first turn of Lap 59.
Elliott was back in his comfort zone out front.
With 15 laps left, 17-year-old Erik Jones, also contending to be the youngest winner in ARCA Series history, was behind Elliott in the second spot with a four-second interval separating them.
Elliott held the leader's spot for the remainder of the event, leaving Jones far behind as he crossed the finish line the youngest winner in ARCA Series history.
After a celebration burnout, Elliott drove into Victory Lane as a late model stock winner, a Snowball Derby winner, a Pro Cup Series winner at Rockingham, a K&N Pro Series East winner at Eastern Iowa, and now as an ARCA Series winner.
"It's a dream come true for me," his father said. "He's done a good job in everything he's raced in. He's won at a lot of different things, and this is just kind of another era."
For the younger Elliott, the opportunity to win at the same track where he saw his dad win is a huge victory.
"For me to have an opportunity to race here at Pocono means a lot much less going to Victory Lane," Chase said. "I knew it would mean a lot if we could do it, and we were fortunate everything worked out."
Up next, Elliott heads to Wisconsin for the Scott 160, held at Road America. It will be his second appearance this season in the ARCA Racing Series.