Has Hell frozen over? If we could go back in time a la Marty McFly to the 80s to tell NASCAR fans back in the day that an Elliott would be racing for an Earnhardt, what do you think their reaction would have been? More than likely that fan would have said that a certain region south of us had gone Arctic.
Hmm, perhaps Beelzebub is sporting a new pair of long johns. Chase Elloitt- son of NASCAR legend Bill Elliott- has aligned himself with the progeny of one of “Million Dollar Bill’s” chief rivals, Dale Earnhardt. JR Motorsports has signed a multiyear deal with the younger Elliott to drive a car sporting the elder Elliott’s number nine in the Nationwide Series. How do you like those apples?
Those of us who can remember can’t help but flash back to the “Pass In The Grass” at the 1987 all-star race then known as “The Winston.” Earnhardt, Elliott and Geoff Bodine engaged in a considerable amount of “door handle racing,” and though at one point Elliott gave Earnhardt a shot that sent him onto the edge of the grass. As the race progressed, Earnhardt pinched Elliott high, which resulted in Elliott hitting a retaining wall, causing his left side tires to go flat. Earnhardt held on for the victory, while the 16-time Most Popular Driver settled for 14th. Elliott- who took exception to the way The Intimidator raced him that day- gave Dale Sr. a good shove on the cool down lap. So angry was Elliott that legend has it he threw out every pair of Wrangler jeans he owned (Earnhardt’s sponsor at the time.)
Times change. Unlike Devil Anse and Ol’ Ran’l- who oversaw the shedding of much Hatfield and McCoy bloodletting- things settled down. Before NASCAR could even call Elliott, Earnhardt, and Bodine together for a come to Jesus summit, the Awesome Bill vs. Ironhead rivalry cooled to a much more civil level, though the two were right there with Rusty Wallace, Darrell Waltrip and others as fierce competitors. Earnhardt won the 1987, and four more titles after that historic day. Elliott went on to win the 1988 Winston Cup title. Earnhardt the Elder died at the 2001 Daytona 500, while Elliott- the winner of 44 Cup races- kept on racing into his fifties, gradually winding down his long racing career. Ironically, NAPA will sponsor Chase at JRM. NAPA was the primary sponsor for Michael Waltrip, who won the Daytona 500 the day Earnhardt died. Waltrip was driving for none other than Dale Earnhardt Incorporated.
Dale Jr.’s sister, JRM General Manager Kelley Earnhardt Miller says “I think it gives the opportunity for the newer generations of the sport to learn more about the history of our sport.” Not only will Elliott’s use of his dad’s number nine bring back plenty of tales from days gone by, Earnhardt Miller also noted that Sprint Cup rookie Austin Dillon’s use of her dad’s number three will do the same. “It will continue those stories about my dad and his success in the sport and just will continue to educate future generations about the sport.”
The Elliotts and the Earnhardts working together. It’s a sweet pairing if you think about it. The next generation of legendary racing families out on the track keeping the legacy alive.