Chase Elliott reunites with the late model crew chief
Chase Elliott isn’t quite sure his story is going the way it does without Ricky Turner.
So, when the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion returns to the Super Late Model environment that shaped him as a teenager, Elliott wants to do so alongside the crew chief who played such an important role in his development as a racer and man.
To that end, Elliott will make his first start in two years this Saturday at Speedfest at Watermelon Capital Speedway in South Georgia and will come alongside Jake Garcia with Turner overseeing both of their efforts.
Elliott has been asked on numerous occasions to start Super Late form over the years, and while there is always some degree of interest, Turner has historically taken part of the equation.
“We’re friends, first and foremost,” Elliott said after an open audition Thursday. “Running the roads with him, that’s been a vital part of my career.
“Honestly, I learned a lot from him and I am so grateful for his work and efforts to get me to where I am today. I’m not quite sure I would be here today if it wasn’t for him, so any time I can race in this arena it’s going to be with him He’s my first choice. It makes sense to me and all the ways I like to do it.”
Turner, the 2002 award-winning Snowball Derby driver, runs his program from Dawsonville where Elliott still lives. It’s where he keeps his car and short track equipment. It allows Elliot to be just as hands-on and engaged with Turner as the seasoned racing guru taught him.
Elliott also credits the support of FR8Auctions and HendrickCars.com to making this race happen.
With Garcia making the transition full-time to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this season, Turner now has more openings in his schedule and that could see Elliott make more appearances throughout the summer.
Elliott was grateful that Jake and Stevie (Garcia, Sr.) were open to letting Turner split time over two cars this weekend as well. Garcia will continue to race Turner on his schedule, but the schedule is open for Elliott to pick a few races if he so chooses.
“It’s totally up to him, you know, what he can do with his schedule,” Turner said. “It’s so much fun doing these things for him as long as he enjoys it. So, it’s up to us to get him a good car to the track so he can have fun and compete and it’s up to him what he wants to do this season.”
When asked about his busy schedule as the sport’s most popular driver who leads a creative team, Elliott said he can find the time.
“Not doing a lot of that because a lot doesn’t have much to do with the schedule,” Elliott said. “You can make time to go to the race if you like, especially with the weekday shows these days, and I just get into the kind of situation I want to be in when I do this.
“For me, it’s about racing with guys that I feel comfortable with and guys that I can have fun with as well.”
To that point, it would be easy for Elliot to join a multi-car or premium driver development program to increase the probability of winning, but that’s not all for Elliott.
“Nothing against any of the other programs,” Elliott said. “They have some amazing cars in a time when so much in this world is changing, but Ricky’s local, and I know we’re going to have a great time and compete. I hope so anyway, because we’re both really competitive, and I want to contribute to what he’s building. I’m not sure I can That, but I want to, and if I can help, that’s something I’d be very proud of, too.”
Turner knows Elliott has no shortage of suitors any time he wants to go to the Super Late Model races, and he appreciates that they can keep the band together.
“I’ve told him several times that there are a lot of people who would like him in their car and he wouldn’t have to worry about this or that, or the financial side of it, but he wants to do that,” Turner said. For me, but he was fine with us.”
Elliott said the test day was ‘okay’ and mostly just a chance to rock a car he hasn’t ridden since December 2020.
“Two of our helping hands will be arriving for the weekend through tonight,” Elliott said. “They will be here tomorrow. I just wanted to come down and do a few laps and feel it.
“I certainly don’t condone being here on Thursday for a short track race on Saturday night but it’s close for us, just a few hours down the road. It’s a good opportunity to come down here and make sure we don’t have any big issues and come back tomorrow and really start working, And more adjusting things.”
And for Turner, he says, working with Elliott still feels as natural and familiar as it was a decade ago when they first started racing together.
“It is, but I’m trying to catch up to it at this point,” Turner said. “Obviously he’s learned a lot over the past two years and now I’m learning from him.
“It’s a huge help for me to find someone like him who drives alongside Jake and have them both work off of each other. But I’m definitely learning from him today.”
Talk about an entire moment.
“But then, he’s still the same old kid he always was.”
Live coverage of Speedfest 2023 will be provided on Fridays and Saturdays Subscribers to RacingAmerica.TV. Elliott joins a stacked list that includes William Byron, Bubba Pollard, Corey Heim, Johnny Sutter, Carson Hosivar, Matt Craig, and more.
In all, Speedfest features 340 laps of action between Super Late Models, Pro Late Models, Outlaw Late Models, Legends, and Bandoleros.