CONCORD, N.C. – It’s no secret Chase Elliott was born into racing. His father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, was in his prime when the younger Elliott was born.
Despite his famous father making the circuit around Cup Series tracks, Elliott remembers him just as Dad. When it came time for Elliott to decide if he wanted to pursue racing, he said it was an easy decision.
“My dad was one of the stars of the show and I thought that was the absolute coolest thing ever,” Elliott said on the “Cut to It” podcast with Steve Smith Sr. “Those moments were the ones where I was like, ‘Dang, I want to do that.’”
Elliott described how he started racing go karts and quarter midgets at 7 years old. As he got older, he realized his family was spending time, money and energy to have him at the tracks. Elliott knew in his early teens he needed to decide if he wanted to buckle down and commit to racing for the long haul.
“I do feel like I came to those crossroads, and there were weekends where there were proms or middle school dances and I wished I was there a little bit, but at the end of the day I reminded myself I’m getting to do things that some people could only dream of,” Elliott said.
“I always kept that in mind and my dad always told me, ‘I can only get you so far in this deal. If we’re good enough and we run (well) enough, opportunities may come along. If we don’t, we can go do something else and nobody’s going to be mad at anybody for it.’”
Elliott said his dad always gave him the option to not pursue racing and that there wouldn't be hard feelings if he decided to walk away. However, the opposite happened. Growing up, Chase went to dozens of Bill's races and was in the thick of the action. He joined his dad in the pits, in the garage and down on the track with the drivers and crews.
For Elliott, his father reaching the highest level of NASCAR after humble beginnings has been inspiring.
“Obviously, my dad and I have similarities, but I feel like the way he grew up as a kid and the way I have grown up are certainly very different,” he said. “They didn’t have much as a kid. He and his brothers and his dad – they pretty much did it all. And NASCAR was at a place where they could build cars on their own and go to the junk yard down the road to cut parts and pieces off of an old, wrecked car that was on the street and go build a race car with it. As time evolved, NASCAR grew, and Dad had a long career and was able to have success over a long period of time. I’m not sure there are many generations that have seen as much change as he had.”
The 24-year-old driver described Bill as an extremely hard worker who still is energetic and driven. He doesn’t take for granted his dad’s work ethic and credits Bill’s family values for his desire to be as successful as possible in the sport.
“He and his family made it popular and they made it successful and I think the family aspect of knowing my dad wasn’t on his own – his brothers had a big-time involvement in his career and in their success,” Elliott said. “Although it’s a different time and they’re not hands on making cars go fast for me, I think knowing the family history certainly pushes me to want to keep that family name around in racing, because I think it belongs.”