Dawsonville, Georgia is a quiet town north of Atlanta that provided stock car racing's roots moonshine runners back in the 40's and 50's. The town also produced NASCAR superstar Bill Elliott, who was a top the racing world for many years. Now Elliott has passed the torch to his son Chase, who at age 17, has already accomplished short track records that may never be matched.
Just 26 days before the younger Elliott can even be cleared to run at the NASCAR Sprint Cup level, he gave the short track crowds something to talk about. He became the first driver to win all four of biggest and most prestigious historically Super Late Model events in asphalt short track racing. Trophies from the Winchester 400, the Snowball Derby, the World Crown 300 and after Saturday night, the All American 400 are now all in Chase Elliott's home.
He may only be 17, but it's hard to not call Chase Elliott one of the best short track racers ever.
"This means a lot to me and my family," said Elliott of his All American 400 victory Saturday night at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville. "We were so close here in 2010 and I was not sure when I was going to get another shot at it. To do it is pretty awesome and I know this means a lot to all the guys and to Ricky (Turner, Elliott's crew chief)."
Fans have claimed that Elliott has unlimited money and funding. He has had the support of national retail companies and is a development driver with the Hendrick Motorsports operation. He does have a NASCAR champion for a father and an uncle that has built engines that have won races from the short tracks to the Cup level. Still, even resources can't prevent pieces from failing. Money can't prevent pit road miscues. Even a Cup champ for a father can't keep other drivers from making mistakes that could prevent his son from going to victory lane in any of these major races.
With all the chess pieces in play, plus modern Super Late Model rulebooks that have tightened the clamp on what teams can and can't get away with, Elliott's success is perhaps unmatchable in the foreseeable future.
"I hadn't a clue he'd do what he's done," said Bill Elliott of his son about when they first took to the Late Model. "It's beyond words. He has done such a remarkable job in everything he has got in. When he started in go karts he did ok. Once he figured it out and once he figures out what he needs to race the way he does he's hard to beat. I don't spend a lot of money doing this. We have sponsors that float most of the bills, but I try to give him the tools to do it and he done a great job."
Perhaps the most important cog to the young driver's success that does not share his last name is crew chief Ricky Turner. The ability to work under a former Snowball Derby-winning driver like Ricky Turner is has helped guide Elliott and be a non-fatherly voice on the radio. You don't see Bill stepping in to question the calls of the crew chief or the driver. Bill knows his role is on the spotter's stand when he's at the track.
"Ricky's underrated in a way," added Bill. "He lives close to us and it's kind of been easy to have him. For some reason they have something special. Chase knows what he wants and Ricky knows what he needs. He and Ricky communicate very well. In practice (at Nashville) they were butting heads because Ricky said the car was good and Chase said, 'I need it to do more.' I think cause they have gelled so well together that that's the most important thing. It hard to find that combination."
The crew chief feels the camaraderie of the team is what has made them so strong.
"Just about everybody has been here since Chase started," said Turner. "A few of us work in the shop and the others volunteer their time on the weekends. We don't hire in pit crews, we use our own guys. Our guys take pride in it. For most this is not their job. They do a real good job with the pit stops. That makes it more gratifying when you have a group of guys who do the whole thing themselves. They put them together, they clean 'em up and they pit them. I think we do it the way that short track racing should be."
Turner said the combination with Elliott had lots of potential even out of the gates back when they first started.
"I didn't think this was possible until we went to the first race with Chase," said Turner. "Right after we ran that first race at South Georgia back in 2009 I knew he was going to be something special."
They did have something special. Now short track racing has something special in Chase Elliott.
Reliving the Four Crown
2010 Winchester 400
Chase Elliott came into the day having finished second at the All American 400 second at the Rowdy 251 and fourth at the Rattler 250. Having always been a bridesmaid in the extra distances races, Elliott made made his way to victory lane by taking the lead from Chuck Barnes, Jr. on lap 357 and held off Johnny VanDoorn on the final set of restarts to capture the famed Winchester rifle winner's prize.
2011 Snowball Derby
The dramatic finish of the 2011 Snowball Derby will go down in history as one of the best finishes ever in Super Late Model racing. On the race's final restart, DJ VanderLey, with fresher tires, pulled even with Elliott on the outside and battled door-to-door with the Georgia driver. VanderLey led at the stripe by inches each time by in the closing laps, until the final one. VanderLey lost grip, which gave Elliott the leading coming to the flag for the win in the Snowball Derby. Elliott was involved with other leaders in a wreck halfway into the race and made several pit stops for repairs.
2012 World Crown 300
In one of the most dominating performances ever in a World Crown 300, Chase Elliott sat on the pole and led 196 laps en route to winning all three segments to capture the $20,000 prize. Elliott was only the second driver to win from the pole and first since Fredrick Moore did the feat in 2004. It was also the second pole in the World Crown 300 for Elliott.
2013 All American 400
After setting fast time Chase Elliott then fell to the rear after a broken track bar only to charge back to the lead pack. Elliott's final pit stop dropped him to 21st with 72 laps to go. Elliott took the lead and continued to do so through the final 30 laps to finish off the quest to his four crowns. Elliott led only once during this race. In all the other wins he led more than once.