Chase Elliott is hoping his family name will help him continue to gain racing fans. Thanks to Hendrick Motorsports, Chase has a new number for the 2018 season, and it will be familiar to long-time racing fans. Chase is driving the No. 9 car, the longtime number of his father, former NASCAR great Bill Elliott.
“I’m just very honored that he is supportive and is OK with me driving that number that he’s done so much to make it what it is,” Chase said in an Atlanta Motor Speedway press release. “I think it’s an honor for me more than anything. Jeff wanted the 24 car to stay at Hendrick Motorsports, and for a guy who has been around and has done everything he’s done to make this place what it is, how can you not have respect for that?”
Chase’s parents, Bill and Cindy Elliott, have been with him long before he was driving the No. 9 for a big-time NASCAR team. Thanks to his family’s support, Chase is doing his best to continue the Elliott family racing legacy.
Learn more about one of the signature families of NASCAR.
1. Chase’s Father Is NASCAR Legend Bill Elliott
Bill raced for 37 years as a NASCAR driver, but his final two season he only raced in a combined seven races. Over his career, Bill had 44 wins, and 320 top 10 finishes. According to NASCAR.com, his 1976 debut was a family affair with his father, George, fielding the car, and his brothers, Ernie and Dan, were part of the crew.
Bill was known as “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” thanks to his Dawsonville, Georgia roots. Today, he gets the joy of watching his son Chase compete on some of the same tracks he did during his racing career. Racing is something his son loved since he was young.
“Since he was little – four or five years old – he always had his Matchbox cars and run them around on these little tracks, totally focused,” Bill told NASCAR.com. “He’d sit on the pit box on Sundays and tell [Bill Elliott’s team owner] Ray [Evernham] all this stuff.”
2. Chase Switched From No. 24 to No. 9 in 2018 to Honor His Dad
Chase drove the No. 24 car for several years, taking over for Jeff Gordon. With the approval of Hendrick Motorsports, Chase made the switch to the No. 9 car, the same number his father drove, starting in the 2018 season. Chase spoke with SB Nation about the significance of driving the No. 9.
“It is special to me just because of the history I’ve had with it,” Chase told SB Nation. “Obviously, I would have never chose that number to start racing if it wasn’t for my dad. There’s a lot of time I’ve spent with the number, a lot of photos and races and things that I’ve run with it. It’s just kind of home to me. Always been my favorite number.”
Bill admitted it is significant to see his son driving the No. 9 car.
“It was a great opportunity for us to have Chase use Jeff’s [Gordon] number the last couple of years, but for me, it’s fun to see him in the 9 car,” Bill said in an Atlanta Motor Speedway press release. “I grew up driving the 9 all of those years and I’ve watched Chase drive the 9 at the short tracks and then through the XFINITY Series and then on to drive the 24 in the Cup Series. I think it will be fun. I think it will be really well received from the fans. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Not only does the switch have family significance, Chase is hoping the team can gain a few more fans with his new number.
“I wasn’t sure I’d ever drive the 9 again,” Chase noted in an Atlanta Motor Speedway press release. “It’s a huge deal to my family and everyone back home (in Georgia), and I hope all of our fans will be pumped to see it back on the racetrack. There’s a legacy attached to that number, and I want to carry it on. I think it’s awesome that Hendrick Motorsports wanted to do this. It’s impossible not to be excited.”
3. Chase’s Mother, Cindy, Met Bill When She Was on a Photo-Journalist Assignment.
According to AutoWeek.com, Chase’s parents met in 1988 when his mother, Cindy, was working a studio assignment as a photo-journalist. The couple did not begin dating until 1992, and the couple was married later in the year. Cindy spoke with Auto Week about watching both her son and husband race.
“Because I have so much confidence in Chase, there’s really no difference [in watching Chase or Bill],” Cindy told Auto Week. “I knew Bill wouldn’t put his car anywhere it wouldn’t go and Chase is the same. He won’t put himself in a position where he doesn’t feel comfortable. I was confident with Bill and I’m just as confident with Chase.”
4. Chase Learned How to Race About 10 Years Sooner Than His Father
“I didn’t start racing until I was 17, 18,” Bill told Fox Sports. “He started when he was eight, nine, 10 years old. You learn a lot more early on. And he raced a lot more short track then I ever did. To me, he did a really good job of being able to adapt to different cars as the evolution of racing grew.”
Not only was there a difference in experience, Bill noted the cars have changed a lot since he retired from NASCAR.
“I try to help him outside of the racecar,” Bill told Fox Sports. “The other drivers have to help him inside the racecar. Because the stuff has changed a lot since I’ve been in a racecar.”
5. Some Drivers Believe Chase’s Family Name Can Help Him Become the Most Popular Driver in NASCAR
For fans who have been following the sport for a long time, the Elliott name carries a lot of weight. Some of Chase’s fellow drivers believe it could help Chase become the most popular NASCAR driver. Kevin Harvick spoke with Auto Week about Chase’s longstanding ties to the sport.
I really think Chase Elliott is our biggest tie to our grassroots NASCAR fan. I’ve said this a number of times, but I feel like he’s one of the most important ingredients in what NASCAR racing does going forward, because of his family name. He has the legacy that’s already been built in this sport by his dad and he’s come into this sport with a great name and already proven that he’s going to be competitive. He has those Southeast NASCAR ties to those core fans that none of the rest of us will ever have, and he’s the guy.
Jimmie Johnson, one of Chase’s teammates, believes Chase has already ascended to the throne.
“I think he’s already won the 2018 Most Popular Driver Award,” Jimmie told Auto Week.