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Drivers put Dawsonville in spotlight
Gordon pic
Local racing historian Gordon Pirkle folds Chase Elliott T-shirts at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame on Monday after the 18-year-old from Dawsonville won his first career NASCAR Nationwide race and propelled the museum into the national spotlight. - photo by Michele Hester Dawson Community News

Chase Elliott's first Nationwide Series win Friday night made Dawsonville the most popular city in the country, at least for a few minutes.

"You couldn't ask for anything better than Rusty Wallace announcing that I had my hand on the siren at the Dawsonville Pool Room waiting for Chase to win," said Gordon Pirkle, owner of the eatery and local racing historian.

"I think this is just the start of something. It started with Bill [Elliott] and now every time they're going to say Chase, they're going to say Dawsonville."

Pirkle began the tradition of sounding the siren in 1983 when Chase's father, former NASCAR Winston Cup Champion Bill Elliott, won his first race in Riverside, Calif.

"It's loud," Chase Elliott said.

While the younger Elliott isn't old enough to recall that era, he's pleased to see the tradition continue.

"I don't even remember them doing it for him. It's really, really cool that they kept that going for me, and hopefully we can ring that bell some more this year," Chase Elliott said.

Most of the crowd gathered Friday night to watch the race at the Pool Room and the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame had gone home when Chase Elliott passed JR Motorsports teammate Kevin Harvick for the lead with 15 laps to go.

"We were down to about 10 people watching because the race had started so late. But gosh, they started coming back after that happened," Pirkle said.

As the 18-year-old driver rounded turn four seconds ahead of runner-up Kyle Busch, Pirkle's cell phone began to ring with Chase and Bill Elliott fans calling to hear the siren.

"It reminded me about how it used to be back when Bill was so hot," Pirkle said. "We'd have calls from all over the country wanting to hear the sirens. And naturally as loud as this one is, if they called here, they could hear it."

The allure of Dawsonville as the Elliott family's racing hub continued throughout the weekend. Fans came out in droves to tour the hall of fame and be a part of the history-making weekend.

"I done a 12-week average Saturday at the museum and this Saturday tripled the Saturday average," Pirkle said. "They're all wanting to come and congratulate Chase."

For Elliott, the win tops all of the previous victories in his career, which began as a 9-year-old racing go-karts in north Georgia and continued in Bandaleros, then late models and the truck series before entering the Nationwide Series this year.

"Getting your first win in anything is an honor and a great feeling," he said. "I feel like this one for sure means a lot and it's got to be right up there at the top.

"This is an extremely special win to me, and to do it at JRM and with NAPA Auto Parts, this one so far is hard to beat."

The Nationwide Series heads to Darlington Raceway in South Carolina on Saturday. Nicknamed the "Lady in Black" or "The Track Too Tough to Tame," Darlington is a 1.366 mile oval, and according to Pirkle, "a good track for Chase."

"Darlington is his type of racing. And that was a good track for Bill Elliott, too," he said. "It's a tough, tough track, but seeing what Chase done on Friday, I'm looking forward to it,. And I won't be surprised at all if I don't burn that siren up this weekend."