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Elliotts To Make Emotional Return To The Past

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, August 31 2018

Chase Elliott will be driving the throwback paint scheme this weekend that means so much to his family. (RacinToday photo by Deb Williams)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.co

DARLINGTON, S.C. – Throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway has become one of NASCAR’s most popular due to the memories it resurrects, but perhaps no paint scheme for Sunday’s Bojangles Southern 500 will elicit more emotion than the one on Chase Elliott’s Chevrolet.

To many it’s simply a yellow and blue car, but to the Elliott family it embodies so much more. It honors Ernie Elliott’s only son Casey who lost his battle with cancer in 1996, just one month shy of his 22nd birthday. At the time, Chase was just shy of two months old. However, that hasn’t prevented him for possessing feelings for the first cousin he never knew.

“The Elliott family and our racing history wasn’t just about Dad, Uncle Ernie, my grandfather, Uncle Dan and myself,” Chase said. “That’s not the case. There was another Elliott that was racing and I think it’s only fair to share that.

“He was pretty good and people don’t know that story. What people leave behind often tells the true story as to what kind of person they were. How much everyone missed him and talked about him years after he hadn’t been around says a lot about him.”

Bill described the paint scheme as a “great deal for our family.”

“It kinda puts things more in perspective and put a closure to things that happened in the past and be able to move forward,” Bill said. “Chase has a good frame of mind of kind of looking after everybody and I think that’s a lot of what Casey had.”  

 Ernie cites his daughters, Julie and Nicki, along with Chase, as the ones who turned the idea to honor Casey into reality. Chase’s paint scheme resembles the one Casey and his sister Julie designed.

Ernie and Bill describe Casey as “just a good kid.”

“He had an old Ranger pickup he drove around with a tag on the front that said, ‘Who Knows? Who cares?’” Bill recalled. “I think he lived that a lot. He was the kind of kid that everyone wanted to look up to.”

Casey made his racing debut at age 18 at Lanier National Speedway in Braselton, Ga., in the NASCAR All Pro Series. He earned the pole for the 200-lap event and finished second to winner Mike Garvey. That was his best finish that year as he recorded five top-10 finishes in nine races. When Bill Elliott left Junior Johnson and formed his own team for the 1995 season, the plan was for Casey to eventually replace his uncle as the organization’s driver.

Initially, things appeared going as planned. Casey added another top-10 finish to his racing resume in 1993 in an ARCA race at Pocono, driving a Ford owned by Bill. Later that year he competed in two Busch Series events (now Xfinity) in a Ford with his mother, Sheila, listed as the owner. His three race cars that year were sponsored by BOSCH, carried the number 94, which was Bill’s Cup number at the time, and were yellow and red. But in December 1993, young Casey’s promising racing career came to a screeching halt when a growth on his right thigh was diagnosed as malignant. Throughout the battle Casey remained upbeat, determined to defeat the nasty disease.

In October 1995 he thought he had succeeded. He talked about looking for a girlfriend and working as a crew chief in 1996. But in late 1996 his, as well as his family’s, hopes and dreams were shattered when the cancer returned with a vengeance. Despite trips to the MD Anderson Cancer Center, by mid-January 1996, Casey was gone.

“It’s hard to talk about,” Bill said. “He had a great outlook on life. Even through his tough times as he went on with the stuff that he fought, he still had a great attitude on life. When he got pretty sick you would think you were going in there to cheer him up and he would cheer you up.”

Chase had the idea to honor Casey about 20 years after his cousin’s death and discussed it with his sponsor, NAPA, in January 2017. However, the corporation had already settled on the paint scheme it wanted for last year’s Darlington race.

“I’m glad it didn’t happen last year just because of the number change,” Chase said about regaining the No. 9, which was his dad’s original car number. “I think it’s much cooler like this.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, August 31 2018
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