There’s no place like home. We all know the slogan made famous 90 years ago in the hit movie “The Wizard of Oz.” Well, Chase Elliott knows the feeling now. The Georgia native grew up and still lives to this day 84 miles from the Atlanta Motor Speedway. He’s always dreamed of winning a NASCAR Cup Series race on his hometrack. He’s had success in legends cars here. But none really in NASCAR.
Elliott is 0-for-2 in the Xfinity Series. He’s 0-for-1 in the Truck Series. Entering this weekend, he was 0-for-8 in Cup. That’s 0-for-11 in a place that he’d want to win at as badly as he does the Daytona 500.
Speaking of Daytona, Elliott is 0-for-7 in the Great American Race. He was runner-up in 2021. For Atlanta though, this place is different. It’s home. He’s always Bill’s son here but at this rate, pretty soon it’s going to be that Bill will be known as Chase’s dad here.
Kidding aside, Chase is technically Bill Elliott Jr. Both are named William Clyde Elliott. He elected to go with Chase, to not live from his dads shadow. He wanted to stand out. That’s something he’s had no troubles of doing though. He’s always beloved in the state of Georgia but that popularity has since grown over the last decade to being nation wide. The younger Elliott is the 4 time reigning Most Popular Driver in the sport. He took over that spot from Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The sport is his. He wasn’t necessarily ready for that until his championship in 2020. Now, the stardom grew at an exponential rate. So did his appetite to winning in front of his home fans.
He’s crossing off more and more things off his list to do. Atlanta and Daytona are at the top of his list to win at.
Now, he’s crossed one off. Elliott, led Sunday’s Quaker State 400 on a hot summer Georgia afternoon 8 times for 96 laps but made those fans rise to their feet with a late race pass on Corey LaJoie for the top spot to cruise to his 16th career Cup Series victory but 1st in front of his Georgia natives.
“I felt like there before the race there was definitely a larger quantity of the right hats and tee shirts than there typically are,” Elliott said on Sunday in Atlanta. “I just think that’s so cool. Like I know that our sport is a little different. It’s not like we have home games and away games. There’s 35 guys to pick from, and if you choose us, great, and if you don’t, that’s fine with me, too. Just make some kind of noise; it just means you care.
“But to see that many people up there and cheering and wearing the 9 hats and seeing the NAPA gear, you want to make those people proud.
“I think for me, I’m just proud to be from here, proud to still live here, and I’m grateful that the fans of this state have always kind of kept me a part of the family really. At the end of the day I’m just a fan, too, as it pertains to Atlanta and Georgia.
“I have always felt like they’ve kind of welcomed me as one of theirs and our team, too. It’s a special thing, and to be able to share that moment, I saw a lot of people before the race wearing our hat and our shirts and stuff, and you always want to make those people proud, but when you have it go our way like it did today, that was pretty cool.”
“I’m proud of that and glad we could do them good today.”
Good he did. This is a moment he wishes he could bottle up and keep.
“Unfortunately it just doesn’t work like that, moments that are really special and near and dear to your heart like winning at your home track, a place that I’ve spent a ton of time at as a kid racing on the quarter mile down here in Bandoleros and legends and a lot of trips between here and north Georgia up and down the road,” Elliott continued.
“Just kind of — when you’re a kid and you’re racing on the quarter mile over there you look at this big track and it’s just out of reach, like not even real, just that your heroes are out there competing once or twice a year on this big track, and that’s just not real.
“To be here and to have a day like we had is really incredible, and certainly one I’m going to embrace and enjoy a lot.
“Obviously be ready to go to Loudon here in a few days, but these wins are just too hard to come by, and especially when they’re as special as this one. I’ve witnessed guys win at their home tracks and you can always tell it means a lot to them, but until you start competing somewhere at a sport’s highest stage like this, I’m not sure you fully understand the meaning of it and what it could mean to you. So to be able to have this moment is really special and one I’m very grateful for.
“Those type things are more than special. I’m not sure that my dreams really grasped something like that when I was a kid and I wanted to be here. I wanted to be here and I wanted to make it and I wanted to be successful, but I’m not sure I got far enough into it to start thinking about joining Dad on lists like sharing a championship and sharing wins at our home track. Those type things are — yeah, they’re something that — me sitting here telling you it’s special I think it probably doing it a disservice. It’s something to be very proud of and something I’m very proud of, and I think he is, too.
We’ve seen Jeff Gordon win the inaugural Brickyard 400 in front of his home fans. We’ve seen Jimmie Johnson win in Fontana. The amount of joy drivers bring to winning in front of their home fans is a sight to behold.
For Elliott this was the same.