If you see a bunch of Ford executives with bruised shins, it’s because they’re probably still kicking themselves for letting Chase Elliott get away.
Bob Pockrass of SportingNews.com has an excellent story about a talk he had with Bill Elliott, who will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame this Friday.
Elliott, who spent most of his NASCAR career driving a Ford, related how he went to the company to try to build a deal that would back his young son’s racing career.
“I tried to make the Ford thing happen,” Elliott said. “It didn’t. I saw it one way and they saw it another way and it didn’t work out.”
Elliott and team owner Rick Hendrick then worked out a deal to put Elliott in a Hendrick-supplied car for the K&N Pro Series East beginning in 2011.
That led to last year’s deal that landed Elliott in an Xfinity ride with JR Motorsports (which is owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and has strong ties to Hendrick) and backing from NAPA, which had just ended a longtime sponsorship affiliation with Michael Waltrip Racing.
“Mr. Hendrick came to us with an opportunity that at the point in time, it wasn’t much of an opportunity but he was the only one that would talk to us,” Elliott told Pockrass.
And the rest is history.
Chase Elliott went on to win the 2014 Nationwide Series championship at the age of 19, the youngest series champion in NASCAR history.
And if a flurry of rumors are to be believed, Chase will likely be the heir apparent to replace Jeff Gordon, who will walk away from Sprint Cup racing at the end of the upcoming 2015 season.
“My gratitude to (Hendrick), I just can’t say enough about the man about what his character is in the sport and what he’s done for us,” Bill Elliott said.
“That kind of went against my roots as far as the Ford goes, but that’s the path we ended up having to take at the point in time and I can’t do anything about it. Right now, it’s set and that’s the way it is.”
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