DAWSONVILLE — Chase Elliott has been knocking on the door of victories in each of his first two full-time seasons in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series, including seven second-place finishes in those 72 races.
His hometown fans in Dawsonville have a feeling that once he breaks through, the wins will keep coming. They have seen it happen before: His father, Bill Elliott, finished second eight times before victory No. 1 in 1983. That was followed by three wins in 1984 and 11 in 1985.
The 2018 season begins with the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 18.
When: 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18
Chase Elliott in 2017
Standings: 5th (2,377 points)
Top 5s: 12
Top 10s: 21
Chase Elliott has been agonizingly close, whether it was leading late at the 2017 Daytona 500 before running out of gas or being wrecked by Denny Hamlin at Martinsville later that season with a chance to clinch a spot as one of the sport’s final four championship contenders.
“I think he’s got a good chance to run for the championship this year,” Dawsonville resident David Wilson said. “We just love to have somebody else to pull for after Bill quit.”
Wilson was eating lunch Thursday with his son Michael at the Dawsonville Pool Room, where newspaper clippings and photos from Bill Elliott’s racing days cover the walls.
Both Wilsons have been impressed with 22-year-old Chase Elliott’s demeanor.
“Nothing seems too big for him,” Michael Wilson said. “Nothing rattles him.”
David Wilson said he’s looking forward to the siren at the Pool Room going off after Chase Elliott’s first regular-season win in NASCAR’s top series, a form of celebration used during Bill Elliott’s heyday and for some of Chase Elliott’s accomplishments already. But he doesn’t bring it up during races for fear of jinxing his hometown driver.
Dawsonville’s race fans are thrilled to see Chase Elliott now driving the No. 9 car, the same number Bill Elliott had for much of his career and the younger Elliott had on his Xfinity Series championship car in 2014. He had driven the No. 24 for Hendrick Motorsports his first two full seasons in NASCAR’s top series.
Gordon Pirkle Jr., who manages the Pool Room, likes Chase Elliott’s chances at Daytona, Martinsville and pretty much any of the 1.5-mile tracks like Atlanta and Texas.
“I just feel like any given Sunday he could win a race,” Pirkle Jr. said.
There will be another Dawsonville native in NASCAR this year, too, with Spencer Davis signing a five-race deal with Kyle Busch’s truck series team.
Gordon Pirkle Sr., who owns the Pool Room and founded the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in Dawsonville, said Chase Elliott is mature beyond his years.
“He’s going to break out,” Pirkle Sr. said. “Last year he had the most bad luck for a young guy. No doubt, he’s got the ability.”
It’s just a matter of time before the wins come.
“Chase is going to be an upcoming star,” David Wilson said. “There’s no doubt about it.”