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Dawsonville buzzing over Chase Elliott's first Daytona 500
Racing mecca's new favorite son scores Xfinity win, 37th Sprint Cup finish
A-Chase Elliott pic1
The Dawsonville Pool Room sign announces to motorists Chase Elliotts pole position for the Daytona 500. - photo by Scott Rogers DCN Regional Staff

Three days before the Daytona 500, the Dawsonville Pool Room restaurant was packed for lunch.

By Sunday, the eatery was boasting a full house with eyes glued to the television. After all, another Elliott is at the forefront of the racing world.

Chase Elliott, the son of 1988 NASCAR Winston Cup champion and fellow Dawsonville native Bill Elliott, has taken over the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports car occupied for 23 full years by Jeff Gordon.

Gordon Pirkle Jr., Pool Room general manager, said people come in from out of state to watch the race at the restaurant and support Chase Elliott.

"That's the way it used to be with his dad, everybody wanting to hear the siren," Pirkle Jr. said.

Owner Gordon Pirkle began sounding a siren at his restaurant after Bill Elliott's first win in NASCAR's top series in 1983 and continued the tradition through the years. Pirkle's son said the restaurant sounded the siren for six or seven minutes Feb. 14 to mark Chase Elliott's fast qualifying effort at Daytona.

On the pole for the Feb. 21 season-opening NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Daytona International Speedway, Chase Elliott, in his first full season in the racing series' top level, hoped to sweep the weekend after taking the checkered flag in Saturday's Xfinity Cup race.

A spinout in the grass as he entered the fourth turn on lap 19 Sunday sent the rookie driver to the garage for repairs. He returned about 40 laps behind the leaders and was able to finish the race in the 37th position.

"It just got turned around there off of four," he said. "I turned through the middle, got loose and lost it. It spun out. I hate it for everybody. Less than 20 laps in and we have something like that happen. We had a really fast car all week. I just hate it ended so soon."

Denny Hamlin won the race.

While the Pool Room was able to sound its world famous siren for Saturday's victory, fans will have to wait a few more days to see if Chase Elliott can bring home his first Sprint Cup win at his hometown track this weekend.

"We're going to get back out there and make some laps," he said after Sunday's wreck. "Most importantly though, we're going to get ready for Atlanta."

Sunday's race will be aired at 1 p.m. on FOX.

Again, fans are expected to pack out the Pool Room this weekend to watch.

Pirkle Jr. had hoped Chase Elliott's car would carry the No. 9 his father did, as the No. 24 car has drawn something of a love-hate relationship with NASCAR fans over the past two decades with Gordon behind the wheel. Little of that matters now.

"We're going to be behind him no matter what number he is," Pirkle Jr. said.

Parts from Bill Elliott's red No. 9 cars hang in the Pool Room, which also has a tire from his car that won him a $1 million Winston Million bonus at Darlington on Sept. 1, 1985. The walls are covered in newspaper clippings from many of the elder Elliott's 44 Sprint Cup victories.

Judging by the early trajectory of Chase Elliott's career, including a 2014 Xfinity Series championship, the son may soon be filling up the walls with his own clippings.

David Hester, who lives in Cumming near the Dawson County line, was eating lunch Thursday at the Pool Room with friends. Most impressive to Hester is how 20-year-old Chase Elliott is the youngest Daytona 500 pole winner ever.

Hester noted that Chase Elliott has a good ride with Hendrick Motorsports, which has produced 11 champions in the Sprint Cup series, including four by Gordon in the No. 24. But that's not the only thing going for the young driver.

"He's got good blood in him," Hester said.

A half a mile away from the Dawsonville Pool Room is the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame, which is connected to City Hall. Hall of Fame volunteer and Dawsonville native Aline McClure recalled being at home alone when she watched Chase Elliott win the Daytona 500 pole last Sunday.

"I just hollered," she said.

She added that a lot of people were in the museum last Saturday wanting the No. 24 T-shirts for the young Elliott, and she had sold two hats to a man in North Carolina on Thursday who's been a fan of the Elliotts for years.

Jared Stokes, who was born and raised in Dawsonville and was at the Pool Room for lunch with friends, said he likes that Chase Elliott hasn't lost his common touch despite success.

"Them Elliott boys put Dawsonville on the map," Stokes said.

Staff writer Michele Hester contributed to this story.