CONCORD, N.C. – When Nick O’Dell sees the No. 9 LLumar Throwback Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 paint scheme, he is taken back to his early days in NASCAR.
The front-tire changer for the No. 9 team of Chase Elliott at Hendrick Motorsports has a unique connection to the paint scheme that honors a car Chase’s dad, Bill Elliott, drove to four wins from 2001 to 2003 and for part of the 2004 season. Chase Elliott has said that those years helped to spark his desire to pursue racing.
PHOTOS: See every angle of the No. 9 LLumar Throwback Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
As O’Dell was getting started in the sport, he was part of the development pit crew at Evernham Motorsports and worked a handful of races as a fill-in pit crew member on the No. 9 team of Bill Elliott’s in 2003. He also was on the No. 91 pit crew in 2004, which saw Bill run a limited schedule. O’Dell eventually transitioned full time to Kasey Kahne’s team at Evernham.
"It reminds you of where you started and where you came from," O’Dell said of seeing the paint scheme that he worked on in his first years in the series. "It’s cool to remember when you were the grunt, working 60-to-80-hours a week trying to make a name for yourself and get in the sport. That makes it come full circle."
O’Dell also jokingly acknowledged the other side of what seeing that car meant.
"It also makes you feel old that a car you once pitted on is now a throwback scheme and you get to pit that car one more time. It’s definitely a cool experience."
The Springfield, Illinois, native has been part of the pit crew for Chase Elliott for the entirety of the driver’s Cup Series career. Having also worked with his dad, O’Dell has noticed some similarities between the two drivers that are part of NASCAR’s 75 Greatest Drivers list.
"Their temperament," O’Dell said. "Even if something gets under their skin or ticked them off, you wouldn’t necessarily know it. They wouldn’t come out and just be angry like 99.9% of all humans. They would find a way to dance around the anger and leave it in another direction."
The No. 9 team comes into Darlington Raceway with Chase Elliott coming off a seventh-place run at Kansas Speedway and his fifth straight top-12 finish. Although he missed six races after suffering a fractured tibia, Elliott has gained 53 points on the provisional playoff cutline since returning last month at Martinsville Speedway. It’s been a different year so far for the team, but one that O’Dell feels can be a benefit.
"Our group on the No. 9 car, we’ve been together quite a while," O’Dell said. "We’ve been very fortunate to have some good, consistent races and good, consistent seasons. That has led to a lot of success. Now that we are being hit with a lot of adversity and hit the reset button, it is a reminder that this glory is not guaranteed forever. You’ve got to earn it. It gives you that sense of can we do this when we have to work for it? Everything is good when it's going good and it comes easy, but then you got to remember to fight through the hard days too."
With 18 wins since 2018 (tied for the third-most in that span) and the 2020 Cup Series championship, the team has experienced the peaks of the sport. For O’Dell, a potential victory on Sunday with this car would be a high mark for him personally.
"If I could help get that car back in victory lane and be a part of it, that would be something that you never even would have fathomed," O’Dell said. "I was hoping to get into the sport. I didn’t realize I was going to be making a 20-plus-year career out of changing tires. I’ve been extremely fortunate to be on really good race cars at really great organizations. To have that come full circle, would honestly mean the world to me."