The City of Dawsonville went a little crazy Friday night, after local NASCAR driver Chase Elliott posted his first career victory in the Nationwide series at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
Sticking with tradition in the historic downtown area, Gordon Pirkle, president of the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame, sounded the siren at 10:01 p.m. Friday at the landmark Pool Room, alerting the community of a major racing win.
“I went over and slammed all those buttons wide open,” Pirkle said. “I was going to turn it off after about five minutes, but my phone didn’t stop ringing, so it kept on running for about 20 minutes.”
Racing fans were eating it up at the Pool Room Monday during lunch.
“His daddy (Racing legend Bill Elliott) will tell you Chase is a better driver than he was,” said Mark Byrd of Dawsonville. “I think Chase will be one of the upcoming stars because he’s so good at waiting; he’s patient, and he’s smooth. He’s been trained by the best.”
Roland Bryand of Hall County said his 80-year-old mother is a die-hard racing fan.
“She’s got somebody she can pull for again,” he said. “I think this is great for the county.”
Mike Plott, who was dining with Byrd and Bryand, said his son, Judd, is friends with Elliott.
“They knew it was going to happen, but it might have happened sooner than they expected,” Plott said. “That win wasn’t handed to Chase. He had to pass Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick.”
Indeed he did.
Elliott defeated Busch, Harvick and Kevin Larson on a late restart, passing Harvick for the lead with 15 laps to go in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300.
Once in clean air, the 18-year-old was virtually untouchable, finishing 2.66 seconds ahead of a hard-charging Busch. The victory also gave Elliott a two-point championship advantage over his teammate, Regan Smith.
Elliott is just the second championship-eligible driver to win in six races this season, joining Smith who won the season-opening event at Daytona.
“It was just a phenomenal night and an honor to be racing with these guys,” Elliott said. “Obviously, these guys know how to get the job done, and they’ve won a lot of races. To race and pass Kevin for the win and to hold off Kyle at the end was really cool to me, and hopefully, I can do that in the future.”
Elliott cemented his status as one of the most-hyped prospects in NASCAR, adding a Nationwide victory to an already stacked resume that also includes trophies in the NASCAR Truck Series, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, Snowball Derby, All-American 400 and Snowflake 100.
Elliott said Friday equals, and likely exceeds, each of his prior major accomplishments.
“I definitely can say that this is an extremely special win for me,” he said. “To do it with JRM and NAPA Auto Parts, in a new deal that just came together during the off-season, I feel like this one has to be right up there at the top.”
The sound of a blaring siren elicited excitement from both Elliott and his car owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“Was the siren going tonight?” Earnhardt asked. “That’s got to be fun -- good for them.”
Earnhardt, the current NASCAR Sprint Cup championship leader, said he has been increasingly impressed by Elliott the longer he has worked with him. He added his name to the long list of NASCAR notables who now believe that the future is incredibly bright for the Hendrick Motorsports development driver.
“It seems like he has just really mentally prepared himself for what he’s got to do, and he’s not arrogant about what he’s doing or too overconfident,” Earnhardt said. “He just seems to understand what’s happening around him and how he needs to handle it. He just has a real calm and smooth demeanor that’s going to benefit him and really take him a long ways.”
Elliott returned home to Dawsonville and headed back to school. He returns to the track next weekend at Darlington Raceway. He said he’s grateful to have such a supportive community to return home to each week.
“I feel like I’ve been fortunate,” Elliott said. “I’ve had some good buddies that have come to races, and they try to watch all the races, too. So, it’s really cool to go home with that support and have those guys pulling for me on the weekends. I think that’s pretty neat.”
Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan agreed wholeheartedly.
“We are being recognized around the country and probably around the world right now,” he said. “Chase has lived here all his life, and he’s carrying on a tradition that his grandfather (George Elliott) started. He’s a really nice young man, very intelligent and just a great kid.”
Elliott returns to the track this Friday night in the VFW Sports Clips 200. The green flag is set for 7:00 p.m. with the broadcast airing on ESPN2. The Georgia Racing Hall of Fame will be hosting a viewing party that will begin at 6:30 p.m. It is free to watch and food and drinks are available for purchase.