CONCORD, N.C. -- Chase Elliott’s first championship not only put him in elite company, but it made him and his father, Bill Elliott, just the third father-son duo to bring home NASCAR Cup Series titles.
Chase won after he crossed the finish line first at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, beating out three of NASCAR’s best drivers in the Championship 4. Bill called the moment “unbelievable” and revealed what he told Chase before he hit the track.
“I just said, ‘We’ve had a heck of a year and whatever Chase does today, we’re so proud of him,’” the elder Elliott said. “Unbelievable. If it wasn’t for … Rick Hendrick, we would not be here today.”
Chase’s 2020 title comes 32 years after Bill won it. Growing up in Dawsonville, Georgia, Bill, his brothers and father starting working on race cars when Bill was young, taking scraps from local junk yards and building their own machines.
Bill started racing in what was known as the Winston Cup Series in 1976 and earned his first win in 1983. However, it was in 1985 when he really exploded in the NASCAR world, winning 11 races, including the DAYTONA 500, and 11 pole awards. Three seasons later Bill was a Cup Series champion.
When Chase was born in 1995, Bill was an established hometown hero in Dawsonville.
“Those guys that raced on Sundays were heroes to many,” Chase told Sports Illustrated. “So when your dad is amongst that group and having success and beating them, and you go to the races, and you just see what the atmosphere was, and just this massive gathering, and then to see your dad be one of the stars of the show, who wouldn't want to try, right?”
From the time he was a baby until Bill retired, Chase was at the track for many of his father’s races. He was in love with the sport from a young age but soon started to focus on the driving details and dynamics that made a car go as fast as possible.
“As you race throughout the years, you learn new things and you either enjoy those challenges as it comes along or you don't,” Chase said, “I was lucky to continue to enjoy it as I got older.”
While Bill was excited to help his son’s racing career grow as he became a teenager, he said Chase’s happiness was a top priority.
“I told him early on, ‘If you want to race, race. If you don't want to race, don't race,’” Bill said. “Don’t do it on my account. If that's what you really, truly want to do, do it.”
At 15, Chase was signed by Hendrick Motorsports. He spent two years in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, winning the 2014 championship, and made his full-season NASCAR Cup Series debut in 2016. Chase won his first race at Watkins Glen International two years later, and his career only skyrocketed from there.
The 2020 season came to a halt in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. NASCAR was the first sport to resume and Chase won his first race of the year less than two weeks later at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 28.
He dominated Bristol Motor Speedway in July to bring home his first NASCAR All-Star Race win and set the stage for four more points wins in 2020. A rallying come-from-behind victory at Phoenix made him the third-youngest Cup Series champion in history.
"I just never would have thought that this year would have gone like it has,” Chase said after he won the championship. “I mean, NASCAR Cup Series champion. Are you kidding me? Unreal.”