Sentimentality and legacies have always been a big factor in all sports, especially in racing. After the checkered flag flew on the NASCAR Cup Series season at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, it was prevalent as Chase Elliott claimed the championship and sharing the moment with his NASCAR Hall of Fame father, Bill Elliott.
Father-to-son legacies in NASCAR have connected generations of fans for decades. Richard Petty to Kyle, Bobby Allison to Davey, Dale Earnhardt to Dale Jr.
Bill Elliott won Most Popular Driver Award a phenomenal 16 times during his Hall of Fame career. Simply put, fans loved him and hated to see him retire. As a young driver with the same down -home demeanor like his dad’s started to emerge on the scene, they had another Elliott to cheer on in Chase.
As the siren screamed away atop the Dawnsonville Pool Room back in Georgia, we saw an emotional Chase embrace a pride-filled Bill outside the No. 9 Chevrolet.
Veteran followers of NASCAR connected with new school fans as the moment unfolded. A father in living room or man cave may have said to his son on Sunday evening, “I was there when Bill won the Daytona 500 in 1985. Now, I’m sitting here with you watching his son Chase win a championship…pretty cool.”
The younger Elliott isn’t one known for jumping up and down after wins, but he’s also not afraid to flip off or confront a competitor when wronged.
The level of emotion he was feeling after Phoenix was quicklky evident. After winning, he stopped by pit road and put his gloved hands inside his helmeted head and showed some emotions the in-car camera captured. Upon completing burnouts to the cheering crowd, he pulling down into Victory Lane.
As he exited the car, instead of getting out and jumping on the driver’s window edge, he sat on it…briefly threw his arms in the air with fists clenched…then put his head down on the roof…praying, reflecting and/or exhaling.
“I’m at a loss for words,” Elliott said. “This is unbelievable. Oh, my gosh. We did it. I mean, we did it.
“That’s all I’ve got to tell you. Unreal.”
When asked what it means to join the historical ranks of father/son NASCAR champion, it wasn’t something he took likely or for granted.
“Oh, it’s unbelievable,” Elliott said. “All you can dream for is an opportunity, and I’ve been very fortunate to have that over the years and that’s all thanks to some great people. You know, my parents obviously have played a huge role.
“The past year has been tough. I lost my best friend about a year ago tonight. Lost my grandmother last year and all those things bring families closer, so I really can’t thank them enough.
“Now, the 24-year old newly crowned NASCAR Champion has to figure how take in this life-changing accomplishment. He has some great people to turn to in fellow Hendrick Motorsports championship teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon.
“I’m really looking forward to just kind of sitting back and looking at everything from a different perspective and just enjoying it.” Elliott said in the post-race press conference. “But, I’m also going to enjoy it as I’m living it because this is something that may not ever happen ever again, and I recognize that. It’s a moment and a time and an accomplishment that I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever take for granted.
“It’s a really big deal to me,” he said, as the screaming siren on his hometown pool hall cheered from afar.