Sutton, Elliott Keeping Dreams Alive
By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
Back in the day, in the racing circles of north Georgia, Casey Roderick was the kind of young racer that George Elliott would have helped.
Roderick is young, talented, appreciative of any help he gets, but always short of the money he needs to race. Elliott, the late father of Sprint Cup driver Bill Elliott, was as frugal a businessman as they came, but when he found a short track driver to his liking, he didn’t mind spending some of that hard-earned money to put them in a race car – as long as it was a Ford.
For that matter, even the tow vehicles had to be Fords to get George Elliott to help out.
George Elliott also tended to offer the same kind of help to someone he considered to be an up-and-coming businessman.
It’s one of those one-time up-and-coming businessmen, one who got a break from George Elliott back in the day, who has stepped up to help fund the racing efforts of Roderick, who races as part of Bill Elliott’s driver development program.
The man now paying forward the long-ago favor from George Elliott is Russ Sutton, owner of the Monolith construction company in Alpharetta, Ga.
Sutton first met George Elliott when he sold him some painting equipment, then became reacquainted when he quit his job in Atlanta and opened a cabinet shop just down the road from Elliott’s salvage yard. His cabinet shop was a shoe-string operation. It was in a barn beside the trailer that was his home. He and his crew built cabinets for Holiday Inns in the barnyard then dragged them inside when the weather was threatening. Realizing he needed a way to deliver his cabinets, he inquired about an old bread truck in Elliott’s salvage yard – a Ford, of course.
“George asked me how much money I had in my pocket and I told him I didn’t have any,” Sutton said. “He just threw the keys to me and told me to take the truck and deliver my cabinets. He let me use it two or three times before we ever made a deal to buy it.”
When Sutton and George Elliott were visiting, Elliott would show him pictures of some of the drivers he’d helped over time, drivers like Jody Ridley, Charles Barrett, Kenneth Stevens and Harry Gailey.
Recently, Sutton found himself in the same position as George Elliott back in the day.
Roderick, who had come to know the Suttons through a mutual friend who worked on the Bandolero cars driven by Sutton’s son Rusty, went and asked Sutton to borrow $6,500 to buy a racing go-kart.
Roderick, who gained national attention by winning Legends races in inferior equipment, had been racing Late Models through Bill Elliott’s driver development program, but his prospects looked bleak because of a lack of sponsorship.
“(Roderick) commented to me that he thought Bill Elliott was about to cut him loose, and if he could just go out and buy a go kart that would help him keep racing until he turned 18,” Sutton said.
Instead of financing the kart, Sutton set up a meeting with Bill Elliott and agreed to help fund Roderick’s Late Model and ARCA racing this year.
His confidence was rewarded in the ARCA race on the road course at Palm Beach, Fla., when Roderick, in his first start in a race car on a road course, won the pole and led much of the race before dropping out with transmission failure.
But that’s not what Sutton finds most impressive about Roderick.
“He’s incredibly appreciative of everything everybody does for him,” Sutton said. “We like helping him, and we’re just glad to be along on the journey with him.
“He really is a legitimate protégé of Bill Elliott.”
– Rick Minter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments