After a frontstretch burnout to the adoring throngs that lined the 4.048-mile road course, NASCAR’s three-time most popular driver and defending Cup Series champion granted an encore to fans demanding another in Turn 5.
“I haven’t spent any time in Wisconsin, so I’m not sure why they were so loud,” Elliott said with a laugh. “It was super cool. Man, they were fired up. The amount of peer pressure I felt to do a burnout was, like, wow. I don’t know that I’ve ever had that much peer pressure in my life to do a burnout.”
The boisterous chants began while Elliott conducted his postrace interview with NBC Sports reporter Marty Snider in front of the Turn 5 grandstands (watch the video above). It concluded with Elliott blowing out the rear tires on his No. 9 Chevrolet, which needed a push back to the frontstretch and a tire change before entering victory lane.
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“I knew it was going to happen,” Elliott said. “NASCAR was yelling at me to make sure I went around the whole track. I did a burnout in the frontstretch. I was out of tire. I knew they were going to blow out.
“I got down there in the interview, literally that place was packed. All these people are chanting ‘burnout’ at me. I wasn’t going to say no. So I did. Blew the back tires off of it, then ran out of gas, had to have a push. It was just a timely deal.”
He apologized for “tardiness” in arriving for post-race media obligations but wasn’t sorry about reveling in his 13th Cup Series victory and the fifth road course he has conquered.
“The road to that first win, the lessons learned along the way, one of them is you have to enjoy these moments,” he said. “They’re way too hard to get. You don’t know if or when you’ll ever get another one. If the fans want a burnout, I’m going to give them a burnout. That’s what it’s going to be. We’ll take the extra time going down the road.”
It had been six years since Elliott made the most recent of two Xfinity starts at Road America. He also raced at Madison and the Milwaukee Mile, but was caught off guard by the reception from a sold-out weekend crowd of more than 100,000 at Road America.
Elliott received another hearty cheer and chants of “Chase! Chase! Chase!” while addressing the crowd on the track PA in victory lane.
“Walking around, I saw a lot of 9 hats and T-shirts and stuff,” he said. “Yeah, it’s super surprising. I ran two Xfinity races up here. I ran an ARCA race in Madison. Outside that, I never really spent any time up here. So I don’t really feel like I’ve earned the right to have that kind of support in this region.
“But it was amazing. I was super humbled by that. Just the people in general. Whether you’re wearing 9 gear or not, there were just a lot of people here. I was just struck by how big of race fans we have and had here today. This place was packed. This is a massive road course. They were literally, I mean, people everywhere around the course. It’s exciting, man. When they change the schedule up, go to new places, you bring energy and excitement that our series deserves to have. I think we saw that today.”
Sunday’s race was the first in NASCAR’s premier series at Road America since 1956. With Chicagoland Speedway falling off the Cup schedule the past two years, Road America re-established a Midwestern presence west of Lake Michigan — a region is treasured by those such as Hendrick Motorsports vice president of competition Chad Knaus.
Having been raised in Rockford, Illinois, Knaus returned to Road America for the first time in more than 20 years.
“This venue is still just as exciting today for me as what it was when I came here (then),” said Knaus, who was happily tweeting about being back in the Midwest over the race weekend. “It’s a beautiful facility. The fans are just awesome. There’s fans everywhere. They’re lined up and down the straightaways, along the fence, on the concrete stairs. It’s amazing.
“Racing up here is such a huge deal, always has been. You can name hundreds of greats that came out of this area not only from the driver standpoint but from the mechanics, crew chiefs, all of that. Deep-rooted motorsports group up here. I think it’s awesome any time you go into a venue you see memorabilia on the walls, photographs, hoods, the beer signs with Dale Jr. on them. People really love motorsports up here.”