If Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Lynyrd Skynyrd were at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend, they might alter one of their biggest hits and sing “Sweet Home Atlanta” for Chase Elliott.
Elliott is making his first career Sprint Cup start at AMS, the same place where father and NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott had spectacular success in his own career.
The elder Elliott made 62 Cup starts at the 1.5-mile track in Hampton, Ga., earning five wins, 13 top-5s and 19 top-10s, along with five poles.
Making that success even sweeter: AMS is the home track for the Elliotts, who call Dawsonville, Ga., about 85 miles away, their home.
Now it’s Chase’s turn to master AMS in a Cup car.
“I’m excited, first off,” the younger Elliott told reporters Friday morning. “We want to try and get things going and have a little better week than last week (wrecked at Daytona). … I’m excited to get out there today in practice and see how we stack up.”
Last week’s wreck still weighs on Elliott’s mind, serving as a kind of inspiration for him this weekend.
“Not wrecking on Lap 20 would be a good start,” he quipped. “Daytona is Week 1 but it’s such an animal of its own and a unique race. Everybody I think realizes that Atlanta is that first week of the places you’re going to see the majority of the rest of the season.
“We recognize that. Daytona counts, too, so that’s disappointing to have a disappointing day last Sunday. But we’re already here at Atlanta so getting drowned in last week isn’t going to do any good. We realize that and will try to move forward. Having a good weekend would be great. We just want to do our jobs and do the best we can.”
Chase understands how significant the track has been to the Elliott family. But at the same time, he’s approaching this weekend as if he were in, say, Texas, Homestead or anywhere else.
“The way racing is for me, I want to do well here just as much as I do anywhere else,” said Elliott, who has two previous fifth-place finishes in as many Xfinity Series starts at AMS. “I don’t really like to put anything above anything else as far as racetracks go. I don’t pick favorites.
“Obviously, Atlanta is a special place to me because I’ve raced Bandoleros and Legends cars here on the front straightaway. So it’s a special place but I don’t think it adds any extra pressure, really. I do think it would be very cool if we could have a good run here with friends and family around.”