Just call it destiny variety.
On Sunday night at Phoenix Raceway, Chase Elliott’s coronation officially became. A promise becomes the potential that ultimately leads to a return. He’s still weeks away from his 25th birthday, but for longtime NASCAR fans he feels a lot older than that. They have known him almost every day of his life.
The first time they knew about his birth through the press release, the son of legend Bill Elliott was born just two weeks after his father led 17 laps and ran fourth after champion Dale Earnhardt at The family’s home race track, the Atlanta Motor Speedway. The following February, newborn Chase was held on his hips by his father as they strolled to the Awesome Bill̵7;s Ford Thunderbird on the Daytona 500 net.
We watched young Chase walk through the Cup Series garage holding his father’s hand. We saw him sitting on the lap of Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, and other antique racing demigods, whom we had to line up to meet. We watched him on television, snowboarding in Colorado following his father’s path almost as soon as he could walk. We’ve seen him appear on Sports Illustrated, alongside golfer Jordan Spieth as the must-see future stars of their sport. He is 13 years old.
They say that as your child gets older, their body and face change, but their eyes don’t. When you look into your child’s eyes, the picture around them may look different, but what you look back at is the same. Maybe that’s why so many people let their guard down when NBC’s car camera captured the tearful Chase Elliott, that he had to flip his face shield to dry with gloves. hand. When he does that, it is clear that there are those eyes that a lot of race fans have been focusing on for a long time.
Heck, even his father, who spent most of his career at the NASCAR Hall of Fame to show the emotional spectrum of a statue in a city park, was prickling and jumping up and down on pit road after his son won the Cup.
Ladies and gentlemen, the 2020 NASCAR Cup champion. Congratulations @chaseelliott. pic.twitter.com/SoDDKWz4Mf
– Ryan McGee (@ESPNMcGee) November 8, 2020
“I just thought of all the people who worked so hard to help me get points today,” said Chase Elliott on Sunday night, after thwarting Joey Logano to win the 11th race in career and first championship. “I think of my family, all the crew that built all those racing cars for me, Rick Hendrick hired me. Jimmie Johnson, who ran his last race that evening.” Now, and Jeff Gordon, both of you have taken me under their wing as teammates and mentors. There are a lot of people who support me. Even though there are a lot of people who don’t support me.
Yes, there are always plenty of them. Even for the son of a beloved NASCAR legend. Bill Elliott has won 44 races, won the NASCAR title in 1988, and was voted the Most Popular Driver with a staggering 16 times. But being the child of a legend comes with constant criticism, no matter the sport. In racing, that noise is just as loud as the racing cars themselves, a “silver spoonful” perception that those riders haven’t really earned the equipment they drive, the jobs they get or the accounts. assistance paid for all of the above.
Chase Elliott has spent his life denying those criticisms openly, but privately, they have always been at him. That’s why he’s taken it seriously, even at a very young age, stressed out by self-pressure. When his career started 0-98 on the quest to win his first Cup Series race, it stuck with him emotionally. Even as he started to win regularly – three wins per year 2018 and 2019, just third and fourth season full-time – he lost sleep throughout the season because he couldn’t make it into the race last of the season as one of four rival titles.
“For me, it’s always been the fear of disappointing people,” he confessed at Daytona in February, before the day of the Daytona 500, where he led 23 laps but on 17th. because of my name and my dad, two things that I am very proud of, the bar is always high in people’s minds, but my bar is always higher than that all that is why friends and family I always seem to remind me to enjoy it a little more than I have. “
The most powerful preacher of that sermon has always been his father. Bill Elliott always looked rather miserable at the racetrack, even at the height of his power in the 1980s. He famously hid underneath his racing car to avoid reporters as he was racing to won the inflated Winston Million Dollar award in Darlington in 1985. Having won the Cup three years later, he declared to photographers at the Winston Cup Awards in New York, “Tin Good thing tomorrow morning you can’t follow me home to Dawsonville [Georgia]! “
But that very year, he met Cindy, his future wife, one of those photographers. They got married in 1992. When they had Chase, suddenly, the old Awesome Bill from Dawsonville couldn’t stop smiling. Now, the father’s duty is to remind his son to do the same, a task he took very seriously in the days leading up to the Phoenix season finale.
“I, I was very worried,” Bill Elliott, 65, said Sunday night. He talked about his son needing to win at Martinsville Speedway a week ago simply to reach Championship 4, and then trophy. “But I reminded him all week to enjoy myself. All we want as racers is to put ourselves in the championship position. He did it. So, I remind him to enjoy it. Don’t be so worried that you don’t like it. I wish someone told me that while I was driving. “
Chase Elliott appreciated his father’s efforts to keep things at a lighter level leading up to the finale.
“He said to me, ‘Geez, all you have to do is beat the other three guys, so hard ?!” “The son remembers his father’s week-long drive for soothing advice.” He worked hard to keep me relaxed. I appreciate that very much. Just now, when I got out of the car and he hugged me for the first time, that’s what he kept screaming. “I told you you can do it! ‘And he was right. I think his advice over the week has worked out pretty well. “
Yes, it did. Now, the Elliotts are just the third father-son duo to be the NASCAR Cup Series champions, along with Lee and Richard Petty, Ned and Dale Jarrett, all side by side with Bill Elliott in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Chase Elliott is the third young champion in NASCAR’s 72-year history and the youngest ever since Gordon 1996.
“The sky is the limit for Chase,” Johnson said after taking the time from his own post-career celebrations to congratulate teammate Hendrick Motorsports, his junior for two decades. The seven-time Cup Champion finished fifth in his final event as a full-time NASCAR racer, behind only Championship 4.
“When I arrived, there was no expectation of me. Chase had unbelievable expectations from others since the day he was born. But he never stepped back from that challenge. He’s an extremely talented racer, sponsors and opportunities and even your surname, none of them are racing. The person behind the wheel does. And he is. wheelchair driver. “
In May 2010, I stood with a group of people on an observatory that could bypass Turn 3 at Rockingham Highway just opened. We watched young players and veterans of the USAR Pro Cup Series try to steer their machine, out of control as they entered the infamous corner of danger full of rocks and sandblasting. Each car slid sideways and crashed against the outer wall. Except for one thing. The # 9 Ford continued to cut the diamond at the turn without the squeak of tires, plunged itself into Turn 4 and out of sight down ahead.
It is run by Chase Elliott, 14 years old.
I was on that platform with Bobby Allison, NASCAR Celebrity Hall, who competed with Chase’s father and gave birth to a pair of race-driver sons himself. Allison grabs my shoulder, points to the turn below and laughs. “Do you know who taught such a driver?”
I replied: “Dad it?”
“No,” Bobby Allison said with a laugh. “Only God can teach you how to drive like that. When you’re born, you can either do it or you can’t. One day that kid will be the champion.”
That is today.