For the record, Chase Elliott was a soon-to-be eight-year-old when his father won for the last time in NASCAR’s top series.
About a half dozen drivers in Bill Elliott’s 44th and final victory competed alongside Chase on Sunday when the youngster, now 22, finally made his way to victory lane in the Cup series.
Maybe that makes them feel old or maybe they were kids back then and it’s just the changing of the guard here in NASCAR.
The younger Elliott was making his 99th career start in the series Sunday, but drove as if he’d been racing for much longer. He battled with pole winner Denny Hamlin and went toe-to-toe with the hard-charging Kyle Busch and in the end held off Martin Truex Jr., the guy who had won the series’ last two road course races.
Truex, the defending series champion, might have had something for Elliott at the end but his gas tank did not. The No. 78 Toyota sputtered on the final lap and that was that.
Sunday’s Go Bowling at the Glen Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race will be talked about for a good bit and with good reason. Compelling race, exciting finish, first-time winner, link to a former era in the sport, take your pick. NASCAR officials have been waiting for one of these races all season. WGI delivered.
Elliott has had his share of success in NASCAR, just not at the top. He won a K&N Pro Series East race at Iowa when he was just 12 … no, make that he won a race IN 2012. He was all of 16 at the time.
He’s won in Cup, twice capturing his Can-Am Duel qualifying races at Daytona International Speedway in February of ’17 and ’18. But those aren’t “real” races even though they now award points to the top 10 …
Elliott’s rise up through the ranks included stops in the Camping World Truck Series (two wins in 12 starts) and Xfinity Series (five wins and one championship in 77 starts).
All along he’s had the support of team owner Rick Hendrick who once vowed he was done with funding a feeder program for younger drivers because it was expensive and time consuming and, well again, expensive.
But then a talent such as Elliott lands on your doorstep and well, Hendrick is a great businessman but also something of a soft touch but a great judge of talent too so … he’s always said he believed the younger Elliott could win in Cup with the right team around him and the right equipment underneath him.
Elliott is the 17th Cup driver to win for Hendrick Motorsports and four of those are in the NASCAR Hall of Fame and several others will be soon enough.
• The win was No. 250 for Hendrick Motorsports and that is No. 2 behind either Petty Enterprises (268) or Richard Petty Motorsports (273 if counting the PE wins).
Either way, No. 250 was a milestone for the entire HMS organization, a group that had not won since June of ’17.
• It’s also worth noting that Elliott became the fourth different driver to win with crew chief Alan Gustafson, and the stout list he joins also includes Kyle Busch, Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon.
• It appears the Elliotts are the seventh father-son duo to win at least one race at the Cup level.
My unofficial list contains Lee and Richard Petty; Richard and Kyle Petty; Bobby and Davey Allison; Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr.; Ned and Dale Jarrett; Buck and Buddy Baker and now the Elliotts.
There are several brother combinations as well as at least one uncle/nephew.
• Elliott said he “learned a lot about myself the past couple of years,” and part of that probably involves how to handle those near misses. He finished second eight times before Sunday’s breakthrough.
“I think kind of one thing I tried to beat in my head was that you don’t run second eight times by luck and take it for what it is,” he said.
“That’s the truth; you just don’t. You have to realize that you were in those positions for a reason … and if you were in them at one point in time you can get back to them and learn from whatever it was that prevented you from ultimately getting a win.”
Elliott learned, and it appears those lessons are beginning to pay off.