Patrons around the Dawsonville Pool Room put down their Bully Burgers and hand-cut french fries in time to celebrate the moment Chase Elliott crossed the finish line last Friday with his first Nationwide Series victory.
And for the first time in years, owner Gordon Pirkle revived a tradition that started in 1983 in the North Georgia mountains by sounding an emergency alert siren from the roof of his legendary restaurant.
The last time Pirkle sounded the alarm was in 2003 when Chase’s father, Bill Elliott, won his last race.
It had been so long, Pirkle recently had the original rusted siren replaced.
A new tradition was born at Texas Motor Speedway last Friday when the 18-year-old passed Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch in the closing laps to win his first race.
And everyone within miles of the Dawsonville Pool Room heard it.
“It’s really, really cool that they kept that going for me, and hopefully they can ring that bell some more this year,” Chase Elliott said. “That would be really good. It is really loud, it’s extremely loud. I think the cops came out on ’em last time. They didn’t know what was going on. Hopefully that happened again to ’em (Friday night). That would be real good.”
The younger Elliott drove a Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt’s JR Motorsports. With JRM’s association with Hendrick Motorsports, many figure Elliott is being groomed to eventually replace Jeff Gordon.
“I think that the future obviously looks very bright for our sport,” Gordon said after the victory.
“What I see and I give so much credit to Bill and Cindy (Elliott, his mother) in Chase is that not only is he fast, he is smart. I love smart race car drivers. I think it’s so cool to watch him learn in split second moments on how to constantly improve.”
Not only will Rick Hendrick and Earnhardt continue to give him some of the best cars, Earnhardt can be a mentor as Chase Elliott tries to find his own way from his father’s famous shadows.
It took Earnhardt years to find is own comfort zone after his father died on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
What he learned along the way could be priceless for young Elliott.
“I think I can help him out if I see him encountering a situation and it making him uncomfortable,” Earnhardt said. “I think he will handle it well.”
“He’s just really humble and – but very understanding of what’s happening to him.
“He grew up with his father as a racer and saw how popular Bill was and I’m sure has been in and around situations where he’s not going to be overwhelmed with the attention.”
His father knows every driver faces his own challenges. For that reason, he’s allowed his son has learned to drive – and handle the attention that comes with his famous last name – on his own.
“We haven’t really talked much about it,” Chase said. “I think it’s one of those things where you kind of have to experience it on your own. I don’t think that’s one of those things that he can really tell you.
“I think he’ll tell you the same thing; he’s always kind of given me space to figure things out on my own. And any information he gives me, it’s just kind of there for reference. It’s not ever forced upon. I think that’s one of those things he kind of lets me figure out as we go.”
Despite his success – and the likelihood of a long career – young Elliott was back in high school Monday morning. With the exception of a few friends who watched the race on television, the day was like any other.
“Well, as far as me going back to school, it was a typical Monday morning,” he said. “Nobody likes Mondays, whether you’re in school or having to go to work.”
Monday was another workday at the Dawsonville Pool Room as well. But it was far from a normal Monday, since local customers had something new to talk about: Chase Elliott’s win and the shrieking sound of new celebratory siren.