JEFFERSON, Ga. – Chase Elliott’s 2012 spring break will be one he remembers for years to come, thanks to his Beau Slocumb Memorial 208 win on April 7 at Gresham Motorsports Park.
Instead of hitting the beach for a traditional vacation, Elliott chose to compete in a local late model event held in honor of the late Beau Slocumb. The 16-year-old Elliott overcame a part malfunction and drove his No. 9 Aaron’s Dream Machine/Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet back through the field not once, but twice to win the 208-lap event.
“It meant a lot to me to win this race, and I believe it also meant a lot to our Aaron’s Dream Machine/Hendrickcars.com team,” Elliott said. “We battled hard all night long and overcame a lot of adversity to win the race so that just shows how determined and hardworking this team is.
“After breaking that bolt that holds the sway bar, it definitely put us in a bind to not only get it fixed back well enough to compete but also it set us behind on the track. I knew the guys wouldn’t give up though, and we all kept digging. It worked out in the end.”
After earning the pole position earlier on Saturday with a 16.631-second lap, Elliott got off to a good start when the race started later that evening. On Lap 16, he was second and reported to his team that the No. 9 Chevrolet was in good shape and driving well. At the restart on Lap 18, Elliott quickly regained the lead.
Elliott maintained the lead for 74 laps, but when the race reached Lap 92, the sway bar arm on his No. 9 Chevrolet broke, forcing him to pit. Knowing the first segment break was only eight laps away, the team worked quickly to fix what they could then so Elliott could rejoin the field and stay on the lead lap. The crew opted to address the issue further at the break. Elliott stayed on the lead lap and at the restart, he was 13th.
When the race reached the break at Lap 100, the No. 9 team was informed that it had been penalized a lap and was ineligible for the Lucky Dog by the track for bringing out the caution earlier. This setback didn’t hinder Elliott’s outlook though, and he radioed to his team: “We have 75 laps left, and I’m not giving up.”
Elliott restarted the second segment one lap down at the tail end of the longest line due to multiple pit stops earlier to fix the sway bar. Elliott drove his way through the field until two cautions came out early in the run. Because he was still one lap down, he was forced to restart behind the 11 lead lap cars each time the race resumed. But Elliott was determined to overcome the challenge, and on the third restart he drove his way through the field eventually passing the leader. At Lap 142, another caution was displayed and Elliott was officially on the lead lap and in 10th-place. Only eight laps later, Elliott had raced up to the second-position.
Under a caution on Lap 161, Elliott came in the pits for four tires and when the race resumed, he was seventh. In just one lap, Elliott was running in the second spot. With 10 laps to go, Elliott took the lead and stayed up front to win the race’s second segment that ended on Lap 175. While others came in the pits, crew chief Ricky Turner knew the Aaron’s Dream Machine/Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet was in good shape after the team’s solid pit stop 14 laps earlier so he made the call for Elliott to stay out so he could maintain the lead.
As the third segment began, Elliott was able to maintain the lead for the race’s final 33 laps to take the checkered flag. This was Elliott’s fourth late model win of the season in just seven starts.
Next up, Elliott will drive his No. 9 Aaron’s Dream Machine/Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway on April 26.