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Chase Elliott earns 21 Means 21 Pole Award at Talladega
RELATED: Lineup " See all 40 cars TALLADEGA, Ala. – Numerologists doubtless will have a field day with the front row for Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway (on FOX at 1 p.m. ET, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Touring the 2.66-mile race track in 49.704 seconds (192.661 mph) during Saturday's time trials, Chase Elliott put the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet on the pole, making the 20-year-old rookie driver two-for-two at restrictor-plate superspeedways. In his first qualifying run as a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver, Elliott won the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500 . The pole was the sixth at Talladega for the No. 24, the first five having been recorded by Jeff Gordon , who retired after the 2015 season and turned the car over to Elliott . And the pole run came roughly 30 years after Elliott's father, Bill Elliott , earned the top starting spot for the spring Talladega race with a lap at 212.229 mph, before restrictor plates were introduced at the superspeedways. Coincidentally, Bill Elliott also won the pole for the Daytona 500 in 1986. "This is definitely a special place," Chase Elliott said after his pole-winning run. "It's cool to get it done today. This is a team effort, and those guys and everybody at the No. 5 and No. 24 shop, in particular, and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports and the Hendrick engine department and obviously (sponsor) NAPA Auto parts. "But, man, this is cool. Those guys do such a good job. And as I said in Daytona, this had nothing to do with me. This is the car that we had. This is the same car we had in Daytona. They brought another fast one here." The car Elliott beat for the pole, the No. 3 Chevrolet driven by Austin Dillon (192.424 mph), also has a noteworthy history at Talladega. Driving the No. 3 for owner Richard Childress, Dillon’s grandfather, the late Dale Earnhardt collected nine of his 10 Talladega victories and all three of his Talladega poles. "There's a lot of history here with Dale and RCR," Dillon said. "A lot of good stuff happened with RCR here, so hopefully we can continue that streak of good runs for RCR here. We’ve got a car capable of doing that, obviously, with the qualifying effort, and I'd love for it to be my first Cup win." Dale Earnhardt Jr ., who has never won a pole at NASCAR's biggest oval track but has six race wins on his resume here, qualified third at 192.293 mph. Matt Kenseth (192.181 mph) claimed the fourth position on the grid, followed by Jimmie Johnson (192.116 mph) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr . (192.089 mph). The only other driver to top 192 mph was seventh-place starter Brad Keselowski (192.008 mph), a three-time Talladega winner. Ty Dillon qualified the No. 14 Chevrolet for Tony Stewart and earned the 14th starting spot, but Stewart will start Sunday’s race and will have to drop to the rear for the green flag because of the driver change. The plan is for Stewart, who returned to action last Sunday at Richmond after injuring his back during the offseason, to turn the car over to Dillon during the first caution of the race. Note: Josh Wise failed to make the 40-car field.
Elliott sheds rookie label, battles for Bristol top five
RELATED: Full results from Bristol BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Coming off a career-best Sprint Cup Series finish of fifth at Texas last weekend, Chase Elliott has outdone himself, earning a fourth-place finish in Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway . The 20-year-old qualified 19th for the short track event, Elliott's second-lowest qualifying spot since the start of his rookie season. But that was only motivation for the young rookie to battle his way up through the field. "We started off real slow," Elliott said post-race. "We didn't qualify as well as we'd like to on Friday but I thought we hit on a couple things yesterday in final practice that, fortunately, we carried over to today and were able to kind of run our way up through there." Elliott ran as high as second during Sunday's race, but he didn't get there without a few bumps at "The Last Great Colosseum." The Hendrick Motorsports driver experienced a loose wheel early in the 500-lap event, causing him to come down pit road while the green flag was out. But thanks to his No. 24 pit crew, Elliott didn't fall too far behind. "Hate to have a loose wheel," Elliott said. "But the guys did a good job overcoming that with a fast pit stop under green, only losing two laps, so that was big to keep us in contention there and try to get back on the lead lap. So, definitely a long afternoon, but that was the biggest thing that kept us alive." Despite Elliott's strong finish at Bristol, as well as four other top-10 finishes this season, he's got fellow Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Ryan Blaney to battle with week after week. The No. 21 driver also has been running in the top 10 consistently, with an average finish of 19.2 through eight races ( Elliott's average finish is 15.8). Even though Blaney also had a strong showing at Bristol, running in the top five and top 10 and ultimately finishing 11th, the Wood Brothers Racing driver felt his Ford deserved better. "It was good until the end," Blaney said. "We should have run fifth, easy. ... We had a good race car and got stuck on the bottom for three straight restarts and went backward. That's pretty disappointing when you know you have a top-five race car." For Blaney, the Food City 500 was not the 22-year-old's first go-around at Bristol in the Sprint Cup Series. Blaney made a start in the No. 21 Ford in 2015 for Bristol's fall night race, finishing 22nd. This was Elliott's first Cup Series start at Bristol, a track his NASCAR Hall of Famer father Bill Elliott earned his first short-track victory at in 1988. The younger Elliott's only other short track experience in the Cup Series was his run at Richmond in 2015, where he finished 16th.
Chase Elliott's SunEnergy1 paint scheme revealed
Photo credit: Hendrick Motorsports Chase Elliott will have a sun-filled paint scheme later this year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The look for his SunEnergy1-sponsored No. 24 Chevrolet has been unveiled and it has quite the array of colors. The car will first take to the track at Daytona International Speedway ahead of the July 2 race at the revamped facility. SunEnergy1 will also be the primary sponsor for Elliott ’s races at Watkins Glen International (Aug. 7), Kansas Speedway (Oct. 16) and Phoenix International Raceway (Nov. 13). SunEnergy1 founder, CEO and part-time NASCAR driver Kenny Habul will pilot the No. 88 SunEnergy1 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports in the NASCAR XFINITY Series on Aug. 6 at Watkins Glen International . The solar energy company is on board as a sponsor for four races in each of the next three years for the Hendrick Motorsports driver. Elliott ’s rookie season in the sport’s top series is off to a strong start. In addition to nabbing the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500 , he has three top-10 finishes in the season’s first five races. The 20-year-old Georgia native and son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott is 16th in the point standings. RELATED: Which rookie will win first? " SHOP: Elliott fan gear
Bill Elliott finds joy in watching his son's rise
RELATED: From tardy slip to pole-sitter " Gordon gets chills watching No. 24 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The pride on Bill Elliott 's face was unmistakable as he emerged from a small radio interview room Sunday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway . An hour earlier, his 20-year old son, Chase Elliott , had furthered the family's storied name by adding his own remarkable chapter to Daytona 500 record books by winning the pole for Sunday's race. And his dad was visibly moved. The great event's youngest pole-winner ever – by three years – Chase Elliott had just completed a press conference where he was as mindful of realistic expectations for a young rookie in his first Daytona 500 as he was humbled by the historic achievement. RELATED: Relive Chase's Daytona pole, frame-by-frame Chase gets his balanced disposition honestly. His father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott , was never one to give in to the hyperbole through an amazing five-decade NASCAR career that included a Cup championship and 44 wins – including two in the Daytona 500 (1985 and 1987). RELATED: Father-son duos with 'Great American Race' pole awards However, this Sunday afternoon, Bill Elliott was wearing the smile of an extremely proud dad – and willing to share the experience with a couple reporters. As calm and calculating as Bill was during his own racing career, he was almost effusive in the pride and love he felt for his son this day. "I try to tell him, 'Enjoy it,'’" Bill Elliott said, grinning. "Because the problem is, then the years turn into 20 to 30 and to 40, and you wonder where it all went." Bill Elliott and his wife, Cindy, had watched their only son's qualifying laps around the sport's most famous speedway while managing both high hope and tempered expectation. As usual, they stood away from the spotlight, only emerging when Chase had sealed this very big deal. "We were in the shadows – where we usually are – just watching and taking it all in, then we walked onto pit road to celebrate with him," Cindy Elliott said while waiting for her son to complete his media obligations Sunday afternoon. "I guess you could say we just had a big Valentine's gift. We're so excited for him. It's a long week so we're pacing; one day at a time." Some of the reserve and realism that characterized Bill's great career is readily evident in his son as well. While answering questions from the media moments earlier, Chase Elliott came off as a much wiser, more sensible person than someone 20 years old should be. He is noticeably measured, and takes time to think about the questions – and he got a flurry of them Sunday afternoon – before answering. And quite often, as he typically does, Chase delivered an alternate perspective from what people might have anticipated. Although cognizant of the hype, Chase does not give in to the great expectations as he takes over Jeff Gordon ’s famed No. 24 Chevrolet at Hendrick Motorsports . He is simultaneously reverent of Gordon's career achievements and yet realistic about the learning curve he, himself, will endure not only this season, but for several to come. And his father's steady guidance and support is both evident and invaluable. "For some reason, he just thinks this is where he wants to be, and that' s it," Bill Elliott said. "I've told him numerous times, 'You know, if this isn't what you really want to do, you need to find something else. It will chew you up and spit you out.' He says, 'Nope, that's what I want to do.' Since he was a little kid it was, 'Yep, I want to drive a race car.' "Since he was little – four or five years old – he always had his Matchbox cars and run them around on these little tracks, totally focused. He'd sit on the pit box on Sundays and tell [then Elliott's team owner] Ray [Evernham] all this stuff." The Elliotts have been such staunch supporters of their son, and subsequently his biggest cheerleaders – whether Chase was winning the prestigious Snowball Derby late model race as a 16-year old or the 2014 XFINITY Series title as an 18-year old in his first full year of big-time NASCAR competition. They have supported, but they have never pushed. “Watching Chase grow up and watching him race, he was pretty good when we raced go-karts on road courses," Bill Elliott recalled. "Then when he moved up and we ran Bandaleros and Legends and he did well with that. But he really excelled when he got in a late model car. That just seemed to be when the light switch went on. And thereafter, no matter what he got in, the heavier, the bigger the car, the better he got. "I'm very proud today. No matter what today brings and Thursday [Can-Am Duels] brings and next Sunday brings is another piece of the puzzle. … You just have to take Daytona and do the best you can to get through it. You just never know."
Stewart preps for relief driver switch at Talladega
RELATED: Weekend schedule " Dillon ready for action TALLADEGA, Ala. -- A week after returning to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition, Tony Stewart becomes a start-and-park driver. In a manner of speaking. Start-and-watch might be more appropriate. The three-time premier series champion missed the season's first eight points races after suffering a back injury during the offseason. RELATED: Full timeline of Stewart's injury, comeback Stewart is scheduled to start his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet in Sunday's GEICO 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Talladega Superspeedway before turning over the wheel to XFINITY Series driver Ty Dillon . It's an infrequent turn of events, but something that does happen from time to time in NASCAR. Last season, Erik Jones stepped in for Denny Hamlin at Bristol Motor Speedway after the Joe Gibbs Racing driver developed a neck spasm during a rain delay. Jones finished 26th. Hamlin was also involved in a driver swap at Talladega in 2013. Injured in an accident at Auto Club Speedway , Hamlin started the Aaron's 499 but eventually gave up the seat to Brian Vickers . J.J. Yeley replaced Bill Elliott during a race here in 2011; he also replaced Stewart in '08 during the summer race at Daytona. Stewart, speaking to the media Friday at Talladega, said he expects to do "what I always do around here at the beginning of the race … just ride around in the back until we get to the first caution." It won't be "glamorous," he said, but it meets his doctors' request. Well, almost. According to Stewart, his doctors didn't want him competing at all this weekend. "We need the points and so we talked them into letting us to at least start the race," said Stewart, who sits 101 points out of 30th. MORE: Standings pre-Talladega "I told them it normally doesn't go more than two or three laps at the beginning of the race before a caution. It might go 82 or 83 laps, who knows? But, we'll run until it gets there." Unofficially, the last time a relief driver won a NASCAR premier series race was 1977, and it occurred at Talladega as well. Donnie Allison started what was then a July race but eventually turned the driving over to Darrell Waltrip due to illness. Waltrip replaced Allison with 23 laps remaining and took the lead with six to go when race leader Skip Manning's car suffered mechanical problems. According to NASCAR rules, points earned by an entry are awarded to the driver starting the race, meaning Stewart will be credited with those earned Sunday by Dillon.
Drafting 101: Chase Elliott's crash-free course in Duels
MORE: Full starting lineup for 500 RELATED: Can-Am Duel 1 results " Photos from Duels DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Chase Elliott 's first taste of Daytona 500 qualifying racing Thursday night ended well with the 20-year-old rookie securing a sixth-place finish in the first of two Can-Am Duel events. The Daytona 500 pole-winner led the first two laps of the race before eventual race winner -- and Elliott's Hendrick Motorsports teammate -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . took control leading all but 27 of the 60 laps. Elliott expected it would be a learning experience -- a high speed lesson in speedway drafting with the big kids. And it certainly proved to be. "Just a lot of things learned for me, got into a few positions, had a few things happen that I should have stopped before they did happen," Elliott said. "The top was pretty dominant, I feel like whatever lane Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) was in, was moving forward fast. He does a good job working the air and that was something I struggled with." Elliott spoke at length with his crew on pit road after climbing out of his No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet after the race. This year's version of Speedweeks is simultaneously a learning experience and a high-profile opportunity for the promising young talent. Elliott , son of NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Bill Elliott , has taken over the driver's seat of just-retired Jeff Gordon 's famed No. 24 Chevrolet. He was well aware many eyes were on him for that reason. After becoming the youngest Daytona pole-sitter in history this past weekend, the expectations are high for the rookie. RELATED: Bill finds joy in Chase's rise in NASCAR None higher, however, than Elliott's own. Standing on pit road after the race he was still scrutinizing his performance, and speaking about learning opportunities. "We've got to be aggressive with the side-draft and keeping guys pinned down at times," Elliott explained of the lessons he learned Thursday night. "It's just being mindful of which lane is forming up ahead of time and the good guys make that happen and recognize that. "We have some areas I know we need to work on and some things I need to recognize before they happen and the good guys do that so I've got to learn. "But," he said turning around and looking at his unscathed Chevrolet, "the car's in one piece. Just got to take it and try to correct things." In addition to working with his teammates on the track, Elliott's six-time champion HMS teammate Jimmie Johnson was on the radio and stood on the pit road stand, offering assistance to his first-year Cup teammate. "Jimmie's up here; he says just make sure you block the middle," Elliott was told at one point. His veteran spotter, Eddie D'Hondt, was mindful of guiding the rookie too. "The tough part here is you just don't want to ever lose this draft. Just keep that in mind," D'Hondt told Elliott early in the event, adding a couple laps later, "So right here you're always in looking your mirror looking to block the middle. See what Kasey did ahead of you was try to side-draft Dillon. What we want to watch here is that not all of your help here bails and goes to the top and you get conga again. But they're not." Another Elliott teammate, the race winner Earnhardt, made a point to speak with the rookie before the race began and told him, "I'm not going to be helping you tonight and don't help me, don't worry about where I'm at. "Do everything you can to keep the lead, don't give the lead up. ...You've just got to be selfish." RELATED: Junior wins Can-Am Duel No. 1 Elliott said he looked forward to getting together with the group for a post-race review, but was encouraged overall and eager to put the lessons learned to use in Sunday's Daytona 500 . "The car's in one piece and we were able to bring it back all in one piece and that was a goal in itself," Elliott said. "That experience gained tonight was the most important thing and I feel good about that and I know there are some things I need to do differently an just correct for Sunday."
Elliott stuck to driving the ovals, not fairways
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Chase Elliott , the newly christened Coors Light "21 Means 21" Pole Award Winner for Sunday's Daytona 500 , says his parents never pushed him toward a career in NASCAR. If they had their way, perhaps the 20-year-old would be taking up a much quieter pursuit. "Mom wanted me to go play golf. She said golf would be a good choice," Elliott said during Tuesday's NASCAR Media Day rotations at Daytona International Speedway . Instead of driving the fairways, Elliott has followed the driving path of his NASCAR Hall of Famer father, Bill Elliott , who started first in four Daytona 500 s. Though his father has provided help as his son has risen through the NASCAR ranks, the younger Elliott said he respected that his parents never nudged him toward stock-car racing. RELATED: Father-son duos to win poles for the 'Great American Race' "Neither one of them have ever forced me to race. It was never that way," Chase Elliott said. "It was always my decision. They always let me make that call. They were always just very respectful. They weren't that soccer mom and dad out there that sometimes can be tough when you have somebody pushing you to do something. It was just never that way. "If I ever went home and told my dad I didn't want to race, there wouldn't be any hard feelings, we would just do something else and have fun with it. It was never like that." Elliott , who said he played peewee soccer at age 5, might be a natural behind the wheel. Golf, not so much. "Terrible," Elliott said of his game. "Terrible at golf."
Chase Elliott gears up for Sprint Cup rookie season
RELATED: Complete driver tracker for 2016 season Had it not been for a phone call from James Finch, Chase Elliott might not be making his Sprint Cup debut as a fulltime driver in the No. 24 Chevrolet of four-time champion and recently retired-from-driving Jeff Gordon in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series this season because it was Finch, the former team owner, who brought Elliott , son of 1988 series champion and NASCAR Hall of Fame member Bill Elliott , to the attention of one Rick Hendrick. Or, as Hendrick stated simply: "My talent scout alerted me." Hendrick and Finch are long-time pals, and Phoenix Racing, the one-time Finch-owned NASCAR organization, purchased its chassis and engines from Hendrick Motorsports . The business side of the relationship continued after Finch sold the team to Harry Scott; Phoenix Racing became HScott Motorsports and Finch became a "former owner." But back to Elliott … "He (Finch) called me and said 'Have you seen this Elliott kid drive?" Hendrick said. "I said, 'He's not old enough.' "James said, 'He's racing; he's 14 and racing these guys like Kyle (Busch).' "Then when I met (Chase) and talked to him, I was just super impressed." That was six years ago and Hendrick, who has won premier series championships with three different drivers, was impressed enough to revive a dormant development program and support a youngster who had neither a driver's license nor a shaving kit but apparently could drive the wheels off a Late Model car. "I said I wasn't ever going to do that again," Hendrick said of the undertaking. "The last time I had a driver development program, I had like three (drivers) and we put on 51 clips in a season. I said 'that's enough for me.'" WATCH: Hendrick team previews 2016 season Officials within the Hendrick organization questioned the move. They reminded Hendrick of his prior decision and the rising tide of costs that resulted from the previous effort. But the boss wouldn't be swayed. "I'm glad I made the investment," Hendrick said. "When he got in that ( XFINITY ) car and started outrunning everybody, then they were taking the credit and I said, 'wait, you are the same guys that said I was stupid for doing it.'" The XFINITY entry was fielded by JR Motorsports, which is co-owned by Hendrick, Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Kelley Earnhardt Miller. What to know about HMS: Drivers for the organization have won 11 premier series championships and a staggering 240 races. Gordon's departure from the driver’s seat opened the door for Elliott , who will join teammates Jimmie Johnson , Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne this season. It’s the first driver change at HMS since 2012 when Kahne joined the organization, replacing veteran Mark Martin in the No. 5 Chevrolet. RELATED: See some of the new looks for 2016 For Elliott , the comparisons to Gordon are inevitable. Hendrick said he believes Elliott is as good now as Gordon was when he joined HMS in late 1992. "I've never seen a young guy mature as quickly as he has and handle pressure the way he has," Hendrick said. "The raw talent; he's special, that's all I can say. Jeff wrecked a lot of cars his first year. But Jeff was fast, unbelievably fast." What to know about Elliott : He's 20, and not only has a driver's license but a pilot's license as well. At JRM, he won the 2014 XFINITY Series championship and finished second last season. His father won 44 premier series races in addition to the '88 crown. RELATED: Elliott soars to new heights -- literally While he is appreciative of his team owner's confidence, the younger Elliott stiff-arms the notion that he’s as good now as Gordon was then. "I think Jeff was light years ahead of most everybody at 20, 25," he said. "I'm going to let the boss say that … but I disagree." He understands the challenges ahead – a longer season and longer races, incredibly talented competition on the track mixed with more obligations outside the car. Daunting? Yes. Overwhelming? No. Elliott has enjoyed success in each series as his career progressed, the various stops helping to shape his driving style as he honed his talents. The journey also taught him perspective. "No matter what's happened in the past or how things have gone for you, that's no guarantee that things are going to be good for you moving forward," Elliott said. "I expect a lot of challenges." He got a taste of those challenges last season, making five starts for Hendrick Motorsports while continuing to compete full time in the XFINITY Series. The starts came at Martinsville (in March), Richmond (in April), Charlotte (in May), Indianapolis (in July) and Darlington (in September). Elliott finished 16th at Richmond, and inside the top 20 at Charlotte (18th) and Indy (18th) as well. "They definitely didn't go as well as I would have wanted them to," he said. "We had our struggles and I'll be the first one to take the blame for all of them. I made a lot of mistakes, they were just dumb and (ones) I shouldn't have made, that I should know better as this point than to do." H2H: Who will take home Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in 2016? Elliott will be paired with crew chief Alan Gustafson, who helped guide Gordon to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup last season. Gustafson's been around the block a few times, having won with Kyle Busch , Martin and Gordon while at HMS. Hendrick expects Elliott to be "one of the flag bearers for the sport" within the next decade. "That Elliott name, his status with the fans – he's already popular – his talent and the way he handles himself," he said. "How do you get to be 18, go out and win a championship and not get cocky, not get smart or just get your head bigger than it ought to be? That showed me a lot. "He came back after winning (the XFINITY title) as humble or more humble than he was, but confident. That's pretty special." Humility seems to be a trait rather than an option. If Elliott is sometimes too quick to shoulder all the blame for miscues, mishaps and less-than-expected results, he's been just as quick to praise those around him for his success and his continued progression. "Growing up I've had such good people around me, whether it was go-kart days, short-track Late Model racing days, to the XFINITY side and being amongst this great organization and great team," he said. "I couldn't have asked for better people since day one. "I think that's the biggest thing. All those people deserve the credit, because without all of them I wouldn't be where I'm at today. I think a lot of them have made me look a lot better than I am over the years. I'm just very fortunate to have this chance."
Chase Elliott , John Hunter Nemechek win Most Popular Driver Awards
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- The two Most Popular Drivers were absolutely suited for NASCAR's big awards. Second-generation NASCAR mega-talents, both Chase Elliott ( XFINITY Series) and John Hunter Nemechek ( Camping World Truck Series) absolutely earned the distinction and the nod in Monday awards presentation. Elliott , who will drive the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevy next year in the Sprint Cup Series -- replacing the retiring Jeff Gordon -- was typically low-key and humble about the whole NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series awards evening. But he was eager to get going in his Cup career after a championship and second place finish (2015) in the XFINITY Series. Earning the Most Popular Driver Award for the recent season must have felt very appropriate for the son of Bill Elliott , who took the Cup Series vote a record 16 times. Dale Earnhardt Jr . has won it the past 12 years. "I think we have definitely a lot of work to do to catch Dale in that sense," a smiling Elliott said. "But I'm very appreciative of the support I've had, especially the past two years and I've noticed it. I don't think people realize how much that means to a driver when they see you wearing their T-shirt. It goes a long way for me. Seeing them do that means a lot." Elliott conceded he and his father, a NASCAR Hall of Famer, haven't discussed this honor's impact even though he is touched to receive it. "We really haven't talked about that," Elliott said. "Fortunately he (his dad) had a big following and some of those people are following me. Can't look past that. Dale has an obviously great following and I'm a Dale fan too." Nemechek, 18, was equally as excited to be recognized on the Camping World Truck Series side. A second-generation racer who won his first major race this season, Nemechek was obviously moved by the honor. "It definitely can't hurt to win the Most Popular Driver in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, " Nemechek said. "It's definitely an honor for me and my family, but more importantly, hopefully it'll help us gain some reputation on selling some sponsorship for the seasons tocome. Can't thank all of the supporters enough that voted, and all the friends and family as well." Nemechek is the second family member to be honored with the award. His father, Joe Nemecheck -- a former XFINITY Series champion and four-time Cup winner. "Yeah, he won I think in 1992 and '93, so it's awesome to be able to win an award that he's won," Nemechek said. "I beat him to something. "I wish he wouldn't have won most popular so I could've beat him to that. We're very competitive, but to get my first truck win when he didn't was very special as well. He wants one bad." With Elliott moving into the Cup series and Nemechek hoping to continue his rise in the NASCAR ranks in 2016. "It definitely is special to hear how good you're doing with the equipment that you have," Nemechek said. "We utilize our resources to the absolute max that we possibly can. We try and get our trucks as good as we can. There's a lot of late nights and hard work put in with just a few people. Finding the funding to get a few more people and not have to work as late and getting some free time to work on some other projects could even make us better, but it was definitely a good year. Getting our first win and finishing in the top five so many times, all the hard work did pay off. "We're still working on trying to find funding. Nothing is set in stone yet. It's all kind of up in the air right now, so still trying to find those possible partners to sit down, sign a deal with, hopefully for years to come."
Family powers Bill Elliott into NASCAR Hall
Humble beginnings couldn't slow eventual rise from 'Awesome Bill' Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Editor's note: The NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2015 will be inducted Friday night at 8 p.m. ET. on NBC Sports Network. CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Bill Elliott arrived on the scene after the careers of his fellow 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame classmates had already come to an end. But the man who would become known as "Awesome Bill from Dawsonville" for his exploits on the track has much in common with Fred Lorenzen, Wendell Scott, Joe Weatherly and Rex White. The five will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame tonight. A familiar thread connects those who reside in the Hall, one that often includes humble beginnings, hardships and eventually success. RELATED: Every class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Elliott , 59, and his family are an integral part of that thread. George, the patriarch, ran a small building supply business in Dawsonville, Georgia. "A hole-in-the-wall deal," Bill says today. The elder Elliott also built race cars, helped other local racers and fielded entries in NASCAR as early as the 1960s. "Daddy carried cars to Daytona in the early '60s, he would carry two cars down there and run a Sportsman or a Modified or some kind of race," Elliott said. Box vans used in the family business served as transporters for the race cars. "He'd back the trailer down there to the loading dock and he'd load them up in the van trailers and carry them down there, then try to find a place to unload them,” Elliott said. "It was like the Clampetts went to Daytona." It wasn't much but as Elliott noted, it was a common sight among those who chose the stock car racing path at that time. "Back then, such a different way of doing things. Anybody could come show up at Daytona with some kind of race car," he said. "I think those are the things that I look back on and were so much fun early on. You go to our little garage down there, you could just throw something together. I remember going to one of the shops of one of the guys Daddy was helping. They were putting a '63 Ford together. They had taken a car out of the junkyard, were taking the interior out and welding the roll bar in it, getting it ready to go. But I mean it was just a stock '63 Ford. Whatever it came with, that's what it had. And those days are gone." Elliott made his first start in what is now NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series in 1976, driving for his family-run team that included brothers Ernie and Dan Elliott . But it wasn't until ’82, when the team was purchased by businessman Harry Melling, that Elliott became an "overnight success." By the time his career had ended (he made his last official start in 2012), Elliott had won 44 races, one series championship and was voted the series' most popular driver 16 times. His wins came on stages big and small -- few bigger than the Daytona 500 , which he won twice, the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Southern 500 at rugged, old Darlington Raceway . RELATED: Read Bill Elliott's Hall of Fame capsule It was at Darlington that Elliott officially picked up another moniker, "Million Dollar Bill " when a Southern 500 win in 1985 earned him the Winston Million bonus. Elliott's move into stardom coincided with a rise in speed on the race track. Before the advent of restrictor plates at Daytona and Talladega, speed grabbed headlines. And no one went faster than Elliott , who ended his career with 55 pole positions. His qualifying mark of 212.809 mph at Talladega remains the fastest qualifying lap ever for a NASCAR event. But that feat wasn't the record that stands out in his mind, he said. "If I was outside looking in at my career, the biggest thing that impresses me was running 210 (mph) at Daytona in 1987," Elliott said. "I sat there and I watched Cale (Yarborough) try to run just 200 (in 1983) and turn over off Turn 4. We came back, ran 205 in '85 and we came back in '87 and stepped it up five more mph average. That was with no technology. That was just the luck of the draw and the things we did at that point in time; that's what really impressed me. "When I first went there I think I ran 171 or something and I thought, 'Man I'm out of control. How can you run any faster?' " Elliott's induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame comes just as his son, 19-year-old Chase, prepares to begin his own Sprint Cup career. It was announced earlier this week that Chase would run five Sprint Cup races for Hendrick Motorsports this season, then take over the organization's No. 24 Chevrolet when four-time champion Jeff Gordon steps down at year's end. RELATED: Gordon: Chase is the 'total package' The younger Elliott didn't witness a lot of his father’s exploits as they took place. But he's relived them through video replays. "There were a lot of races where he took it to 'em, man," Chase Elliott said. "He wore them out. That's cool to look back on and see. "I have a lot of respect for what he has done and for what they did. To do it with what they had (at the time) was very, very impressive. I think a lot of people let that slip by. "They were kind of on their own there in Georgia and a lot of people don’t realize that. They didn’t have a lot of help; they didn’t have a big team. It was just them. It’s very, very impressive to see what they were able to do."