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Dawsonville relishes Chase Elliotts quest for Daytona 500 win
Town's favorite son follows in dad's tire tracks, starts from pole Sunday
Dawsonville’s legendary Pool Room reminds passers-by that local driver Chase Elliott sits on the pole for this today’s Daytona 500.

Daytona 500

When: 2 p.m. Sunday

TV: Fox

Chase Elliott in 2016

Points standings: 10th

Wins: 0

Top-5 finishes: 10

Top-10 finishes: 17

DAWSONVILLE — The siren at the Dawsonville Pool Room is ringing out again these days.

Once an indicator of victories by 1988 NASCAR champion Bill Elliott, these days it’s celebrating the accomplishments of his son Chase Elliott, another Dawsonville native regularly in the mix for wins.

First, the younger Elliott won the pole for today’s Daytona 500. Then he won one of the two 60-lap Can Am Duel qualifying races at Daytona on Thursday night. Now he’ll look to earn his first regular-season victory in NASCAR’s top series.

It’s the second year in a row Elliott will start from the front for the Daytona 500.

Gordon Pirkle Jr., general manager of the pool room, said people were stopping by and calling last Sunday when the siren sounded for the 21-year-old Elliott earning the pole.

“It was like the old times,” Gordon Pirkle Jr. said.

Dawsonville resident Calvin Byrd can identify. He was a little boy when Bill Elliott was racking up many of his 44 victories in NASCAR’s top series and recalled going to his grandfather’s house to cheer for the Dawsonville native. It’s much the same now, but for Chase Elliott this time.

“Everybody’s excited,” Byrd said. “I was thrilled to death when he won the pole.”

And after a few long months of having to watch race replays to get his NASCAR fix, Gordon Pirkle Jr. is looking forward to today’s race.

“I can’t wait,” he said.

Elliott finished 37th at the Daytona 500 in 2016, but he posted 10 top five finishes and 17 top 10s en route to earning Rookie of the Year honors, making the sport’s playoff Chase and finishing 10th in the points standings. He wound up with more points than former champions Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart.

Elliott finished second twice at Michigan International Speedway, in June and August, the latter coming as fellow young driver Kyle Larson picked up his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory. Elliott was tough on himself when opportunities for wins slipped away, which didn’t surprise Gordon Pirkle Jr.

“That’s the way the Elliotts are,” he said. “They’re humble.”

Gordon Pirkle Sr., owner of the Pool Room and founder of the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame, expressed confidence Elliott will break through with a regular-season victory this season.

“He is so well-grounded, such a nice boy,” the elder Pirkle said.

Gordon Pirkle Jr. wasn’t surprised to see Elliott do so well in stepping up to NASCAR’s top series in 2016. After all, Elliott won the NASCAR Xfinity Series title in his first season at age 18.

Count Byrd among those optimistic Elliott can find victory lane with regularity.

“We’re hoping that he’ll win four or five races this year and make the final four,” Byrd said.

One thing is for sure.

“We’re just real proud of him,” Byrd said.