There’s a special meaning to paint scheme on Chase Elliott’s No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet for the Southern 500, as he explained prior to the race.
It’s sometimes hard for individual races on the long NASCAR Cup Series schedule to create their own identities. The Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway (which arguably didn’t need all that much to set it apart anyway) has done it in superb fashion, becoming the official NASCAR Throwback Weekend. When the cars hit the track on Sunday evening, they’ll be doing so to remember a variety of drivers and teams from the past, but perhaps none with as personal a tribute as the bright yellow No. 9 Chevrolet driven by Chase Elliott.
Instead of a callback to something from sponsor NAPA or even his Hall of Fame father, Bill Elliott, Chase’s car is meant to resemble the All Pro Series car driven by his late cousin, Casey Elliott, in the early ’90s. The son of Ernie Elliott, Casey was a promising NASCAR prospect slated to drive in what is now the NASCAR XFINITY Series full-time for the 1994 season. Sadly, he was diagnosed with cancer in late 1993, was forced to abandon his driving plans and passed away in early 1996.
For Chase Elliott, the Darlington paint scheme is a way to shine a spotlight on a member of a famous racing family who perhaps would otherwise fade into obscurity since he never got a chance to show his skills at the top level.
“My cousin, unfortunately, passed away not long after I was born,” Chase Elliott said to FanSided by phone from Darlington. “It was a big loss to our family. I didn’t get a chance to get to know him like I wish I would have. You know, you grow up and hear stories about somebody, and I feel like often times, the racing side doesn’t give the credit to him where I feel like it’s due.”
The talent that Casey Elliott displayed at a young age — once even qualifying higher than Bill Elliott in a then-Busch Series race at just 18 — was reminiscent of the way Chase Elliott has ascended to the top level of stock car racing, albeit two decades earlier. It’s entirely possible that he could have been a star.
With his impossible to miss colors on the No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet on Sunday at Darlington, Casey Elliott definitely won’t be forgotten this year. His cousin is making sure of it.
“People either talk about me or my dad or whatever, so I think it was fair and right to show some love to him and his career, because he was well on his way to being a great racer, and who knows where that would have gone?” Chase Elliott said. “So I’m looking forward to showing that respect.”