Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series star Chase Elliott tagged along with his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, on Thursday, June 15 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as Bill practiced for the Indy Legends Pro-Am race during the Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational.
It was a fun way for Chase to spend time with his dad as Father’s Day weekend approached before heading to Michigan International Speedway for his “day job,” driving the No. 24 Chevrolet fielded by powerful Hendrick Motorsports, a nine-time winner of the Brickyard 400.
But Chase’s visit also revived memories of when he joined his dad in one of the sweetest trips to victory lane in his legendary career.
Chase, 21, was 6 years old when he joined his mom, Cindy, and his dad in Victory Circle and on the Yard of Bricks on Aug. 8, 2002 at IMS after Bill Elliott earned one of the most special wins of his career in the 2002 Brickyard 400.
“Having Chase here in victory lane back in ’02 and having him here the other day was a lot of fun,” Bill Elliott said.
Bill Elliott always has enjoyed a special connection with the Brickyard. He was one of the select group of drivers who participated in the first Cup Series tire test June 22-23, 1992 at IMS as NASCAR and Goodyear explored whether 3,500-pound stock cars were suitable to race on the relatively low banking and four distinct corners of the 2.5-mile oval at Indianapolis.
The test was successful, and two years later the inaugural Brickyard 400 became a NASCAR phenomenon. An overflow crowd witnessed a historic victory by a popular young driver, Jeff Gordon, who spent his teenage years growing up in nearby Pittsboro, Indiana.
Ironically, when Gordon retired as a full-time Cup driver after the 2015 season, his famous No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was taken over by – you guessed it – Chase Elliott.
“It’s a really special place,” Bill Elliott said of IMS. “It was special when I first came here back in ’92. Indy has so much history. Everybody knows what Indianapolis has done for racing the last 100 years.”
Bill Elliott’s unexpected victory in 2002 is a memorable part of that history. “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” had won only two Cup Series races since 1994, and many media and fans thought his time had passed as a superstar of the sport.
But Elliott and team owner Ray Evernham – who was crew chief for Gordon’s inaugural Brickyard win in 1994 and his second win in 1998 – proved the naysayers wrong. Elliott led 93 of the 160 laps for a dominant victory.
“It was a big win,” Elliott said. “I went through a pretty hard time. We kind of put things back together, and I was with Ray and Dodge at that time. It was a very special weekend. We had a lot of fans and a lot of people who believed in me. It still is a special win. It’s a big deal.”
Elliott and Evernham teamed up to finish third in the Indy Legends Pro-Am race Saturday, June 17 at IMS.