Just call it multiple destinies.
Sunday evening the coronation of Chase Elliot on the Phoenix Racetrack became official. The promise that became potential eventually led to a return. The child is still a few weeks shy around his 25th birthday. But to former NASCAR fans it seems much older. You know him almost every day of his life.
In a press release they learned for the first time of his birth, the son of legend Bill Elliott, who was born just two weeks after his father’s 17-laps race and finished fourth at local Atlanta Motor Speedway after the championship title of Dale Ernhardt. In February of the following year, Chase carried the baby on his father’s thigh when they walked to the Ford Thunderbird Amazing Bill on a Dayton 500 grille.
We saw little Chase sneaking into the Cup Series garage with his father holding his hand. We saw him sitting on his lap with Ernhardt, Rusty Wallace and other racing demigods preparing for the meeting. We saw him on TV, snowboarding in Colorado following in his father’s footsteps as soon as he could walk. We saw it in Sports Illustrated with golfer Jordan Spit, who cannot afford to miss the future stars of his sport. He was 13 years old.
They say that when children grow up, their body and face change, but not their eyes. When you look into a child’s eyes, the frame around it may be different, but what you look at is always the same. Maybe that’s why so many people were surprised by their emotions when the cameras in the NBC car caught Chase Elliot’s soaked eyes so deeply that he had to turn his visor over to dry them with gloves. In doing so, he looked into the high-resolution eyes that many racing fans have been looking at for so long.
Heck, even his father, who spent most of his career in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, showing the emotional spectrum of the statue in the city park, waved and bounced around the pit lane after his son won the Cup.
Ladies and gentlemen, your 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion. Congratulations @chaseelliott. Picture.twitter.com/SoDDKWz4Mf
– Ryan McGee (@ESPNMcGee) 8. November 2020.
I think of all the people who have worked so hard to get me to this point today, said Chase Elliott Sunday night after stopping a late shot of Joey Logano to celebrate his 11th birthday. Career win in the race and his first championship. I think of my family, all the team members who built all those racing cars for me, Rick Hendrick who hired me. Jimmy Johnson, who ran his last race tonight, and Jeff Gordon both took me under their wings as teammates and mentors. There were a lot of people who supported me. Even though a lot of people didn’t.
Yeah, there’s always been a lot of them. Even for the son of a popular NASCAR legend. Bill Elliott won 44 races, the NASCAR title in 1988, and was voted the most popular driver 16 times. But being the child of a legend is associated with constant criticism, regardless of the sport. In racing, that noise is as loud as the racing cars themselves, the feeling of a silver spoon that these racers don’t really deserve the material they drive, the work they do, or the sponsorship that paid for it all.
Chase Elliott spent his life getting rid of these critics in public, but in private they’ve always been against him. That’s why he was always so serious, even as a child, stressed by the self-strengthening pressure. When his career began with a 0-98 victory in the search for victory in the first series of Cup races, it left an emotional mark on him. Even when he started to win regularly – three victories in 2018 and 2019, only in his third and fourth full season – he lost his sleep in the off-season, as one of the four title contenders could not make it to the last race of the season.
For me there has always been a fear of abandoning people, he confessed in February, on the eve of the Daytona 500, where he ran 23 laps but finished 17. I think that because of my name and my father, two things I’m so proud of, the bar has always been very high in people’s minds. But my reference has always been above that level. That’s why my friends and family always seem to remind me to enjoy it a little more than I do.
The most powerful voice in this sermon has always been his father. Bill Elliott always looked pretty unhappy on the job, even in the middle of his tenure in the eighties. It is known that he hid under his racing car to avoid journalists when he was chasing the Winston Million Dollar Ultra Speed Bonus in Darlington in 1985. After winning his trophy three years later, he announced it to the photographers at the Winston Cup ceremony in New York. The good news is, you can’t go to Dawsonville [Georgia] with me in the morning!
But that same year he met his future wife Cindy, who was one of those photographers. They got married in 1992. When they had Chase, old Magnificent Bill from Dawsonville couldn’t resist smiling. It is now up to the father to remind his son to do the same thing he took very seriously in the days leading up to the end of the season in Phoenix.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Chase Elliott received solid advice before the Sunday event in Phoenix – Enjoy – and kissed his father Bill after winning the Hall of Fame. AP Photo/Ralph Freso
I was nervous, said Bill Elliott, 65, on Sunday night. A week ago he said his son had to win at the Martinsville Speedway to come in fourth. Championship and then enter the title game itself. But I’ve been reminding him to have fun all week. The only thing we as riders want to do is put ourselves in a position to win the championship. He did. So I reminded him to use it. Don’t get so worried you don’t like it. I wish somebody had told me that when I was driving.
Chase Elliott was grateful to his father for his efforts to keep everything on the positive side, which led to the finals.
He told me: Dude, all you have to do is beat three other guys, how hard can it be?! My son remembered his father’s request for a week of reckless advice. He worked hard to free me. I really like him. Just now, when I got out of the car and he hugged me for the first time, he couldn’t stop screaming. I told you you could do it! And he was right. I think his advice’s been pretty good all week.
Yeah, that’s it. The Elliotts are only the third father-son of the duo to become NASCAR Cup Series champions, after Lee and Richard Patty and Ned and Dale Jarrett, who are in the NASCAR Hall of Fame with Bill Elliott. Chase Elliott is the third young champion in NASCAR’s 72-year history and the youngest since Gordon in 1996.
The sky is the limit for Chase, said Johnson, who took the time to celebrate his own career after the race to congratulate his teammate Hendrick Motorsports, a twenty-year-old junior. The seven-time cup winner finished fifth in his last tournament as a regular NASCAR racer, just behind fourth place.
When I came here, no one expected anything from me. Chase has had these impossible expectations of others since he was born. But he never gave up that test. The reality is he’s an incredibly talented runner. Sponsors and odds and even your last name, none of them drive a racing car. The man behind the wheel. And he’s a Wheeler.
In May 2010 I was on the observation platform with a group of people who had missed turn 3 at the new Rockingham airport. We saw young men and veterans of the USAR Pro Cup series struggling with their cars as they entered a notorious sandy area full of rocks. One by one the vehicles rolled sideways and hit the outer retaining wall. With one exception. The No. 9 Ford put the diamond through the bend silently and without a tire scream, entered the fourth bend and drove the front down out of sight.
It was run by Chase Elliot, 14.
I was on that platform with Bobby Ellison in the NASCAR Famer room, who took on Chase’s father and produced two sons of racing drivers. Alison grabbed me by the shoulder, showed me a corner and laughed. You know who teaches someone how to drive like that?
Did I answer, his father?
No, Bobby told Alison laughing. Only God can teach you to drive like this. At birth you can do it or not. Someday this guy’s gonna be a champion.
That day is today.