HAMPTON — About 24 hours after his historic qualifying lap at the Daytona 500, Georgia native Chase Elliott was back at his home race track promoting another upcoming race.
Elliott visited Atlanta Motor Speedway on Monday to promote the upcoming Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 where he will make his Sprint Cup Series home debut on Feb. 28.
The Dawsonville native is the son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott. The younger Elliott raced Legends and Bandolero cars on Atlanta Motor Speedway’s quarter-mile Thunder Ring as recently as seven years ago, said he looked forward to his Atlanta Sprint Cup Series debut in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 next weekend.
“It’s always been a special place to me,” Elliott said of the asphalt track on the south side of Atlanta. “Dad and I have done a lot of racing here on the front stretch, whether it be a bandolero or Legends car. It’s odd, I guess, to think about being part of this Sprint Cup weekend. I can remember racing the Legends when the Cup cars were in town. We’re excited to be part of the show and hopefully put on a good one for fans.”
But first, Elliott has some business to take care of at this week’s Daytona 500.
At just 20 years old, the Sprint Cup Series rookie becomes the youngest driver ever to win the Daytona 500 pole, after climbing behind the wheel of the No. 24 Chevrolet made famous by recently retired NASCAR icon Jeff Gordon for the first time.
But Elliott refused to take full credit for winning the pole.
see elliott/page a9
“Regardless, as I’ve said, (Sunday) had very, very little to do with me,” Elliott said. It was about the 24 team, Hendrick Motorsports, the Hendrick engine shop for making it all happen,” he said. “Those are the guys that earned that. I have very little to do with that lap and qualifying. They’re the ones that earned it and I’m just excited to be a part of it.”
Bill Elliott won twice at Daytona (1985 and ’87) with both times coming while starting on the pole. Gordon was a three-time Daytona winning in 1997, ’99 and 2005.
The younger Elliott knows there is pressure that comes with bearing the Elliott last name, and it has been compounding by winning his first pole at what is considered the biggest race on the NASCAR circuit.
But he said he refuses to let it get to him as he prepares for his first full-time year in the Cup series.
Chase Elliott said he is surrounding by individuals in the sport who has given him some sound advice of handling the pressure of being a young star in a sport his father dominated during his 36-year career.
Part of his support group includes teammate at Hendricks Motorsports Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“They’ve all had a lot of great insight to give, whether it’s on the race track or off,” Elliott said. “I had a question for Dale (Earnhardt Jr., his Hendrick Motorsports teammate) between qualifying sessions Sunday, and we talked about it. As I can tell, he’s been an open book with me. I’m sure he’s not going to tell everybody everything. There are some things you have to learn on your own, but he’s been great so far. They all have.”
Bill Elliott, who also attended Monday’s press conference, said he talks to his son about how to handle the off the track component of the sport. During his racing career, the elder Elliott was known as “Awesome Bill From Dawsonville.”
“Yesterday was a big deal for us,” Bill Elliott said. “You look back, two years and one month ago, we had nothing. NAPA came along and we were able to get them on board with Mr. Hendrick. Being able to go to run the XFINITY Series and what Chase was able to accomplish, winning a championship in his first year then adding some Cup races last year, it seems like things have really lined up right.”