CHARLOTTE, N.C. — One of the top NASCAR news stories of this week was the announcement that Hooters is returning to the now-Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, serving as a primary sponsor on Chase Elliott’s No. 24 Chevrolet this year.
Oh, what delicious irony.
It was the Hooters sponsored car driven by Midwest upstart Alan Kulwicki that kept Elliott’s legendary father, Bill, from winning the championship in 1992.
Appropriately, the season-ending Hooters 500 and the title fight within went right down to the final lap, and is remembered by many long-time fans as one of the most exciting in the sport’s history.
Speaking to the media during the opening day of the 2017 NASCAR Media Tour today, Elliott laughed when he was asked about the photoshoot with his newly-skinned machine and the Hooters girls.
“I had a lot of fun with that one,” the sophomore Cup Series racer said with a smile. “I’m excited to have them on board. Of course I know their history with Alan. Him and my Dad had a great championship battle in 1992 and my Dad had a lot of respect for what Alan did.”
“I wasn’t about to turn down that opportunity and I’m excited to be carrying their colors this season.”
At that point, press conference host and Performance Racing Network lead broadcaster Doug Rice joked, “This might be the first time in history that someone went to Hooters and stared at the chicken wings!”
Elliott also talked about his upcoming season in terms of momentum, after making the playoffs in his rookie year but just missing out on a trip to victory lane.
“You hope you can just continue forward and not look at it as year two,” he said. “You have to go about it as a new season. You have to see the challenges as they come. One thing I’m excited about is having the same crew chief (Alan Gustafson) for two years in a row. That hasn’t happened in a while for me.”
“Alan is one of the best in my opinion. I’m pretty confident in what we’ve got, working together. I really enjoyed working with him last year. I think he’s very underrated, honestly (as a crew chief).”
Turning to the topic of his adjustment to the Cup Series last year, Elliott was asked if he was surprised at anything in particular.
“I don’t know that it’s surprising (how quickly I adjusted),” he responded. “That extra day at the track, going from racing Saturday to Sunday, makes a bigger difference than you think. We have more practice time throughout the weekend. You have more time to think about it all. Your mentality coming into the race weekend, you have more confidence in that.”
“If there’s one thing you have to be careful of it’s that you don’t mess yourself up spending that extra time second-guessing things. But it all helped us.”
Inevitably, Elliott was also asked about Monday’s announcement regarding the changes in the points structure and format for this season.
He, too, was among the drivers with a positive outlook on the potential of the updates.
“I’m all about keeping things simple,” Elliott said. “The way I see it is that if I go watch something, I go because I find it entertaining. If this makes it more entertaining then that’s great. I think this format has the ability to do that. I think it adds more strategy plays throughout the race.”
“I think we’re all trying very hard as it is but I definitely think it adds some strategy. You’re going to see cautions throughout the day anyway, so I think having two cautions where they add more points is interesting.”
Elliott is expected to be one of the cornerstones of NASCAR for many years to come. He’s got the family lineage. He’s got the championship heritage, built around his own title in the XFINITY Series three years ago.
And now, with support from NAPA, Hooters and the resources that Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet will continue to provide him with, you can bet those expectations will surely be met.
They might just come with an extra plate of wings in victory lane, too.
About the Writer
Tom Baker is the Owner and Senior Editor of Race Chaser Online, as well as creator of the Stock Car Steel/SRI Motorsports Show — airing Thursdays at 7 p.m. Eastern on the Performance Motorsports Network.
With 27 years of motorsports media, marketing and managerial experience, Baker serves as coach and mentor for several next generation racers as well as Race Chaser’s passionate lineup of rising motorsports journalists.
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