As if 2013 wasn't Dawsonville's Chase Elliott's year, the announcement came Monday that he would compete fulltime in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for JR Motorsports with Atlanta-based NAPA Auto Parts as his primary sponsor for 2014.
"This is the opportunity of a lifetime," Elliott said.
JR Motorsports is the professional race team and management company for Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR's 11-time Most Popular Driver and winner of more than 40 NASCAR-sanctioned races.
"My family and I are still trying to believe it all. I couldn't ask to be partnered with anyone better than Dale Jr., Kelley [Earnhardt Miller] and Mr. Hendrick, along with all of the people at their organizations who have put in countless hours to pull this together."
Driving the No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet - the same number his father, legendary racer Bill Elliott, carried for much of his storied career that included the 1988 Sprint Cup Series championship - the 2014 season will mark the younger Elliott's Nationwide Series debut.
"Working with NAPA will be an honor," said Chase Elliot, who turned 18 on Nov. 28, becoming eligible for competition. "They've had a tremendous impact in NASCAR, and I'm proud to represent their brand, on and off the track, to race fans. I'm extremely pumped to get to work in 2014 with that first trip to Daytona and make the most of this opportunity."
Elliott's ascent through super late models and other national touring divisions is decorated with wins and accolades. The Georgia Racing Hall of Fame named Elliott its 2013 Driver of the Year after winning the All-American 400 at historic Nashville Fairgrounds and becoming the first driver to win all four super late model majors.
Signed by Hendrick Motorsports, he became the youngest superspeedway winner in ARCA (Automobile Racing Club of America) history at Pocono Raceway in June and set records in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, where he became, at the time, the youngest winner in series history in only his sixth start in September at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.
By taking on the full 33-race schedule, Chase Elliott has the chance to become only the fifth multi-generational NASCAR champion, as only Richard Petty (Lee Petty), Larry Pearson (David Pearson), Dale Jarrett (Ned Jarrett) and Earnhardt Jr. (Dale Earnhardt Sr.) have accomplished such a feat.
Bill Elliott's 1988 Sprint Cup title came during a season in which he recorded six of his 44 career wins. Known affectionately as "Awesome Bill from Dawsonville," Bill Elliott is a two-time winner of the Daytona 500, a member of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, and a 16-time winner of NASCAR's Most Popular Driver Award.
"No doubt the historical element of this is pretty cool," said Dale Earnhardt Jr. "Bill Elliott is one of the greats. I've always looked up to him. He had some great battles with my dad. Certainly The Winston in 1987 is an all-time favorite. It was probably some of the hardest racing you'll see, and it's fun to watch even to this day. I think there are a lot of Elliott fans and Earnhardt fans that will take interest in Chase's career and support him 100 percent."