There are few things in life that would have pleased George Elliott more than to have his family gather at Gresham Motorsports Park to see one of his grandsons win a race and win it in a Ford.
So Saturday night at Gresham, a track that George Elliott once helped run, was an extra special evening for the Elliott clan as more than 30 friends and family gathering on the 12th anniversary of his passing to watch Chase Elliott lead all 100 laps of the first annual George Elliott Memorial.
George Elliott, the family patriarch, was the driving force behind his sons Ernie, Dan and Bill and their successful careers in NASCAR racing. He also was one of the backbones of stock car racing in North Georgia and for a time helped manage the Jefferson, Ga. Track, known in earlier years as Jeffco Speedway, Georgia International Speedway and Peach State Speedway. But wherever his racing ventures took him, seeing Fords out front was what pleased him most.
Chase Elliott never really got to see his grandfather’s passion for racing and for Fords. His Papa George passed away before he turned three years old. But his memory has been kept alive in the young racer’s heart.
“I just remember Papa George’s strong conviction for being a Ford driver,” Chase Elliott, now 14, said. “And there was one special little red airplane that he gave me that the propeller would crank up and spin.”
Chase Elliott qualified on the outside pole on Saturday but drew a one for the invert, which moved him over to the pole for the start of the George Elliott Memorial 100.
Elliott went on to lead every lap of the race, but it was far from a runaway. A strong challenge from Bubba Pollard over the last 30 laps made for an exciting run to the checkered flag. Pollard was able to track down Elliott, whose car had gotten tighter through the run. Fans and family alike watched the battle ensue with Elliott prevailing in the end.
The race also had a special meaning for Chase’s dad Bill Elliott, who once worked at the track selling hot dogs and tickets then came back years later to score his first major stock car victory there in the mid-1970s.
“It was a special evening for me because daddy’s sister Ethel and his first cousin Thelma were able to come for the inaugural race and they we able to see Chase race and win for the first time,” Bill Elliott said.