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As sun sets on Stewart, Elliott's time to shine brightening
CHICAGO -- Perhaps this is the last one of these for Tony Stewart , the last time to answer the somewhat entertaining questions and to skewer reporters for the lame ones at a media day . For Chase Elliott , it was the first one, the bright-lights pre-staging to the rookie's first Chase playoff run and likely the first of many to come. But it will be the only one where Elliott gets to go head-to-head and fender-to-fender with Stewart. For that, the 20-year-old is thankful. "Tony is a guy I've looked up to for a long time," said Elliott , son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott . "As many of you guys know, Tony was the first guy, other than my dad, I was ever OK with pulling for. I've always had a lot of respect for him." It's a mutual feeling, Stewart said, and one of the ties that binds the oldest and youngest competitors in the 16-driver Chase field. Thursday was Stewart at his best in the Windy City's South Side at the Ready. Set. Chase. launch events, offering witty barbs in one breath and suffering no fools in the next, all the while commanding the attention that a freewheeling three-time champion is prone to do. But the 45-year-old veteran was his most open in discussing his relationship with Elliott , who joins Denny Hamlin (2006) and Chris Buescher (2016) as the only rookies ever to qualify for Chase eligibility. Stewart recognized the youngster's focus early on, when Elliott and his father would pay visits to Stewart's car at the race track. What Stewart said he noticed was an engaged kid, but one who was too shy to speak before his grade-school years -- "I didn't know if he was going to be mute or what," Stewart said. As the years moved on, Elliott began to open up more and his fandom for Stewart's racing career began to grow. Eventually, the fondness for his own racing pursuits sprouted as well, steadily advancing up the NASCAR ladder to his current state as the premier series' presumptive Sunoco Rookie of Year. "That's what was cool about him," Stewart said. "I mean, you never dream at that spot, at that time, that these guys are going to grow up and they're going to follow in their father's footsteps. I'd say Chase has got an extremely good chance of being every bit as good if not better than his father, and his father was great. "So, you know, it's cool to say that I got to know these guys. I mean, John Hunter Nemechek , I was his very first sponsor when he was racing go-karts. You know, stuff like that. When you see these kids that are growing up now, you don't realize how old you are until you realize how old they are now. Start doing the math. You're like, hmm, it's changed a lot." Stewart's calculations this year seem to add up after a tumultuous last few seasons. He's in his first Chase since 2012, has his first race victory since 2013 and will wrap up his final full season with a chance at a fourth championship. The upswing in performance stands in stark contrast to the lean years that were marked by personal hardships away from the NASCAR world. The adversity from his extracurricular events was almost enough to make him walk away from stock-car racing's big leagues after the 2015 season, but Stewart said he returned to bid his fans farewell. Elliott -- a fan himself -- is among those selfishly happy that he did, providing a 10-race denouement to his own Hall of Fame career. "I'm glad that he decided to wait one more year because that is a pretty special moment for me to be able to race against one of my heroes like that," Elliott said. "So, you know, I don't necessarily look at him any different than I do anybody else when it comes to a competitor or how you treat anyone. But, you know, I think he's obviously done a good job. I have a lot of respect for him. I expect him to be strong in these next few weeks." While Stewart acknowledges that his time as a full-time driver in NASCAR is coming to a close, he's hoping to rekindle some of the magic from his championship charge in 2011. Thursday, he superstitiously reiterated his refrain that he was "wasting a spot" in that year's Chase, when he turned a winless regular season into a stirring five-win playoff run. Stewart still pines for a last hurrah behind the wheel, starting this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway , site of Sunday's Chase-opening Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). But win or lose when his driving days are done, he already sees a bright future in the sport coming from the next generation, from a driver he first encountered as a quiet kid from Georgia with a rich racing pedigree. "He's definitely going to be a marquee guy. I mean, he's already a marquee guy and is in his rookie season," Stewart said of Elliott . "As time goes on, some of us that are getting up there in age and are retiring, he's going to be the guy that's going to carry the flag and carry the torch for NASCAR." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
McMurray's Darlington scheme honors Bill Elliott
RELATED: Vote now for your favorite Darlington scheme BUY TICKETS: Darlington Jamie McMurray 's No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet will honor Bill Elliott at this year's Southern 500 throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway . Elliott ran the "Mac Tonight" scheme originally in 1997, and the midnight blue car will ride again in the Sept. 4 Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.) The McDonald's scheme harkens back to a McDonald's "Mac Tonight" advertising campaign. "I am excited that McDonald's is bringing back the Mac Tonight paint scheme for this race," McMurray said. "Last year was so much fun to see all the different throwback looks that teams had for the Southern 500 race. I think that Darlington has done a great job to get so many of the teams to participate and have a unique weekend to celebrate the history of NASCAR." RELATED: See all the Darlington throwback paint schemes This year's throwback theme focuses on the era of 1975-84. More than two dozen throwback paint schemes for this year's running of the Bojangles' Southern 500 (Sunday, Sept. 4, 6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR) have been announced. The program launched last season and is expected to continue for the next several seasons. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
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."
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.
Hall of Fame caps off Bill Elliott's whirlwind week
1988 champion gets inducted, says Chase's Cup news was the bigger deal Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live MORE: Five inducted into NASCAR Hall of Fame " Chase scores Cup ride CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Bill Elliott often outran the competition, but recently the former NASCAR premier series champion has been trying to outrun his emotions. It's been quite the past few days for Elliott , the 1988 champ, and his family. On Thursday it was announced that his son, 19-year-old Chase, would make his first start in the Sprint Cup Series later this year. On Friday, the elder Elliott was one of five drivers inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. His son landing the ride with Hendrick Motorsports , where he will take over a car perhaps even more famous than that of his father was the bigger deal, Bill Elliott said. "Let me tell you this little story," Elliott offered after he, along with Fred Lorenzen, Wendell Scott, Joe Weatherly and Rex White were officially inducted into the Hall. "I called Chase – I think it was Wednesday night and I was talking to him and he said 'guess who called me?' "I said 'I don't know.'" Told it was someone named Jeff, the name didn’t register. "He said, ' Jeff Gordon called me.' He was so excited that Jeff Gordon had picked up the phone and called him," Elliott said. "… That meant so much to him (to talk about) what his next step and what his next role was going to be." Elliott made the No. 9 Ford Thunderbird one of the most recognizable cars on the track during his career. In addition to his championship, he won 44 times in premier series competition. He, along brothers Ernie and Dan, set qualifying records likely to remain unbroken as well. Gordon, scheduled to end his driving career at the end of '15, has won 92 times and four championships with Hendrick Motorsports . For fans that began following the sport in the early '90s or later, Gordon’s brightly painted No. 24 Chevrolet quickly became just as recognizable and even more successful. He's won on nearly ever track where the Sprint Cup Series competes, and several that are no longer on the schedule. And now Chase Elliott prepares to step into the ride once Gordon steps aside. MORE: Gordon calls Chase the 'total package' As much as the sport has changed since Bill Elliott arrived on the scene in the latter part of the '70s, one thing has remained constant – the cycle of drivers that show up, make their mark and eventually depart. Gordon is making plans to exit. Elliott's son Chase is preparing to arrive. Not much different than when he and his family first showed up, the elder Elliott said. "When I came in you had Cale (Yarborough), David Pearson, all those guys kind of winding down," Elliott said. "Then I watched Richard (Petty) retire and now it's turning … again." At that time such changes didn't catch his attention, he said, explaining that with a limited budget and much to learn, "all I cared about was just trying to go race. "There was so few of us, we really didn't worry about anything else," Elliott said. "It was kind of like you were driving down the road with blinders on, you were really oblivious to anything else going on." PHOTOS: Best moments from the NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony His son understands what lies ahead, Elliott said on a night he was honored for what took place in the past. "He's an incredibly good race car driver, and I'm not saying it's because he's my kid," Elliott said. "… I've said all along he's better than I ever thought about being." Maybe so, but the father was no slouch. Among his 44 victories are four that came in the in the twilight of his career before he began to scale back his racing schedule. Driving for Ray Evernham, who had helped guide Gordon to three of his four titles, Elliott won at Homestead, Pocono, Indianapolis and Rockingham. "There aren't many names that transcend a sport," Evernham said. "If you're not even a baseball fan you know the names Ruth or Mantle; even the most casual football fan knows Lombardi and Unitas. "In our sport, in motorsports, they know Foyt and Andretti and Earnhardt and Petty and even casual fans know Bill Elliott because of the things he's done. "It's an honor to have him as a friend, and it's been a great ride."
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."
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
Elliott : 'Nothing is yours until it's over'
Chase Elliott discusses the late-race events that saw him go from leading the race to a third-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway.
Chase Elliott youngest to win national series title
NASCAR Next graduate sets new standards in 2014 MORE: Full race results " Look back at Chase's Sunoco Rookie Report " JR Motorsports championship fast facts AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Proving that stock-car racing talent hasn't skipped a generation, 18-year-old Chase Elliott continued a family tradition Saturday afternoon at Phoenix International Raceway , becoming the youngest champion in NASCAR national series history. Elliott , son of 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Bill Elliott , entered Saturday's DAV 200 - Honoring America's Veterans needing only to lose none of his 48-point lead over JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith . He did, finishing fifth to sew up his Nationwide Series title pursuit with one race remaining. "Are you kidding me?! Yes!" Elliott said over his in-car radio at the checkered flag before running through a list of thank-yous. "You know what they say," his radio crackled back, "you can chase Elliott , but you can't catch him." The siren at the Dawsonville Pool Room -- nearly 2,000 miles east in the Elliotts' Georgia hometown -- sounded loud and proud after the teenager's latest accomplishment, just as it frequently did in his father's heyday. Saturday, the shrill signal celebrated the teenager's impressive body of work throughout 2014, with the Dawsonville institution tweeting, "Call the fire department we might let the "Si-REEN" blare until she catches on fire!!!" and then providing proof. Sorry for the video delay, we are so happy here in Dawsonville we almost forgot to upload it! #di9 http://t.co/LBjiWPlhXK — Dawsonville PoolRoom (@DawsonPoolRoom) November 8, 2014 — Dawsonville PoolRoom (@DawsonPoolRoom) November 8, 2014 Elliott became the first rookie to wear the Nationwide Series crown since the circuit's infancy, landing the first championship for his JRM team -- co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr . -- in the process. He also became the first product of the NASCAR Next youth initiative to claim a season-long title at the national series level. And he also followed his father's footsteps to become part of just the fifth father-son duo to claim a NASCAR national series title. "This certainly has not set in for me, and I don't know when it's going to," Elliott said. "I want to enjoy every bit of it. I'm going to enjoy it all the way till the green flag at Daytona because this is just such a cool honor to have. To be able to come and drive the race cars I've been able to this season, and to be able to do this every week, this is a dream come true. I get to go race cars on the weekend; it doesn't get much better than that." The elder Elliott's list of stock-car achievements has few peers with multiple Daytona 500 victories and the Cup championship in 1988. Saturday, though, was a special moment of a different sort for the proud pop. "I think this is above everything. I'm serious," Bill Elliott said. "I think this is above everything that I've accomplished because that's kind of in the past, and this is him living for his future. He's a good kid, he's done a great job and he's kind of got the world by the tail. He's got to keep his head screwed on straight and headed in the right direction, but I feel like he can do that." Elliott broke through for his first NASCAR national series victory last season at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park during his partial schedule in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. His progress in trucks and other forms of stock-car racing was enough to attract the attention of Earnhardt, who tapped Elliott in January for a full-time ride with his Nationwide Series team. In making the jump, Elliott's car bore the No. 9 that his father made famous, scoring 38 of his 44 career victories in NASCAR's premier series with the car number. NAPA, making its return to NASCAR after departing the Michael Waltrip Racing team weeks earlier, signed on as a full-time sponsor. Though he currently drives for JRM, he remains under contract through the team's association with Rick Hendrick and his Hendrick Motorsports operation -- Earnhardt's team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The 65-year-old car owner, whose eye for budding young racers is credited with developing the championship-caliber careers of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson , said he noticed Elliott's poise and maturity early on. "He is so mature beyond his years, how he can be fast but not wreck the car," said team partner Rick Hendrick. "It's just unbelievable how talented he is, but how smart he is. I think he's got the whole package and that's what impressed me from the very beginning." While Bill Elliott 's career began as a Ford loyalist, Chase Elliott 's big break came in Chevrolets. Success came early, in just his sixth Nationwide race at Texas Motor Speedway in April. Elliott passed Kevin Harvick with 16 laps to go and led five Sprint Cup regulars -- including Earnhardt -- to take the checkered flag. The following week, he was back in Victory Lane at Darlington Raceway , the treacherous South Carolina track where his father captured the Winston Million triple crown bonus in 1985. Though a crash at Charlotte Motor Speedway at May knocked him out of the lead in standings, he snatched the top spot back with a win in July at Chicagoland Speedway and never relinquished his perch. The Nationwide Series season wraps up next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway with Saturday's Ford EcoBoost 300 (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2). After a historic Saturday in the desert, Elliott's race will serve as a 300-mile victory lap. Elliott's coronation had just one moment of uncertainty. The rookie-turned-champ had been fast all day, but when it came to doing a post-race burnout, he paused. "Do I go burn 'em down right now?" Elliott said. "Is that acceptable?" Spotter Earl Barban passed the buck over the radio: "You'll have to ask your crew chief." The affirmative reply came from Greg Ives, "Do what you need to do." Elliott complied like a kid at heart, but one accomplished beyond his years. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
#TBT: Elliott's 'awesome,' improbable 'Dega comeback win
Awesome Bill's thrilling triumph was 30 years ago RELATED: Best #TBT posts of April On May 5, 1985, Bill Elliott started from the pole and won his first race at Talladega Superspeedway . There's much, much more to that story, however. Perhaps the most improbable comeback win in NASCAR's rich history, Sunday's GEICO 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX) will mark the 30th anniversary of Elliott's amazing run in the 1985 Winston 500 where he made up more than a 5-mile deficit -- without the benefit of a caution period -- to capture the impossible triumph. Elliott , with smoke billowing from under his Ford Thunderbird's hood, was within a few hundred yards of going two laps down to the leaders on the 2.66-mile track after taking an unscheduled pit stop to make repairs to an oil fitting line. Elliott climbed all the way back to the front and rocketed to Victory Lane. That unexpected 1985 pit stop, which occurred on Lap 48 after Elliott had already led 25 laps -- he wound up leading 60 total -- lasted 1 minute and 9 seconds, putting the Dawsonville, Georgia, native within shouting distance of falling two laps down. He began his march up the leaderboard by turning laps nearly a second faster than the leaders, banking that his brother's (Ernie Elliott ) prepared engine would last. Ninety-seven laps later on Lap 145, he passed Cale Yarborough down the Alabama Gang Superstretch for the lead. "I will never forget that day in 1985," said Elliott , who topped the scoreboard 35 of the last 44 circuits, including the final 20. "I remember coming down pit road and our guys dealing with the oil line issue. We went back out and ran wide open and I was totally shocked the motor lived all day long; totally shocked. "We were a bunch of misfits put together, 12 of us total on the team, and that included the motor shop and the chassis shop. Most of the guys who pitted the car came in on weekends. We all had a good understanding of the race cars, though. It seems like it was yesterday." Elliott's margin of victory was 1.72 seconds ahead of a pack of cars, including Kyle Petty, who edged Yarborough at the start/finish line for second. He averaged a then-record of 186.288 mph in the race, which only had two cautions, both late in the event. The trip to Victory Lane was his first at Talladega, and he added to his legacy two years later with another victory. "I about kissed everything goodbye because I didn’t know what happened when it started missing there (and engine started smoking)," the 16-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver said on that momentous day in 1985. "But, they raised the hood and got it fixed faster than I thought they would. It felt like I sat there six or 10 laps. I worked my tail off to try and keep up. I just kept on digging. This old car kept on digging. I want to thank the good Lord for making up those laps. The old car just held together and worked." Last week, Elliott celebrated his tremendous 30-year accomplishment by donning a helmet, firing up the engine of that famed red, white and gold Ford that made him a legend, and made hot laps around NASCAR's biggest and baddest track. The car's engine hadn’t been cranked since it was put on display at the nearby International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1986. "It felt like a million bucks (being back in his historic car)," Elliott said in a press release. "I really miss the competitive side of racing week-in and week-out. I ran so many laps around this race track and tested here so many times in my career. It feels like it was yesterday I was racing here." The NASCAR Hall of Famer made five laps around the track, then drove to Victory Lane and was presented a replica trophy from 30 years ago. "The car actually drove surprisingly well. I don't know how fast I went -- couldn't see for some dirt blowing in my eyes. I think that is the way I drove here in '85 -- with my eyes closed most of the race, so I was right at home. I wanted to go faster but the oil temp went up a bit and I said 'it (the engine) isn't going to live long.' " When asked if he wanted to come out of retirement to compete at Talladega again, Elliott joked, "I want to come back Sunday (for the GEICO 500 ). Don't tell anyone. I hope the car gets through inspection."