You don’t get to where Chase Elliott has gotten in NASCAR without some solid role models inspiring you along the way. The 26-year-old Cup champ has had those in spades, from his dad, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, to Jeff Gordon, who took Chase under his wing during his early years with Hendrick Motorsports, to Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has served as an older brother of sorts to the young gun over the years. But, before the 17 Cup Series wins and the 2020 Cup title, Elliott was actually inspired by a figure outside the world of NASCAR entirely: Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart.
During an interview on Victory Lane following Elliott’s first Cup Series win at the 2018 Go Bowling at The Glen, the Dawsonville, Georgia referenced a speech that Smart gave at SEC Media Days in July 2018. It was this speech that got Elliott in the mindset to get the monumental W at Watkins Glen International.
“It took us some kind of hard times to get here,” Elliott said. “I had to have a good group around me to keep pushing me and keep making me realize that we weren’t in those positions by accident. And, it was funny this morning. I woke up and I watched the video. Kirby Smart had a speech about having pressure is a privilege. And, I had that on repeat this morning in the bus, just thinking about it.”
“I thought we had a chance today and wanted to make sure that if we were in a position to try to capitalize, and we did. This is one hell of a day.”
After the Bulldogs’ heartbreaking 26-23 overtime loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide at the 2017 National Championship Game, Smart delivered his “pressure is a privilege” speech, during which he talked about Georgia’s expectations to win championships and the importance of embracing those expectations. The Bulldogs would finally live up to those expectations in 2021, beating Alabama 33-18 to secure their first national championship since 1980.
As for Chase Elliott, he’s the current favorite to win the 2022 championship. Needless to say, he’s no longer the young underdog he was a few years back. But Elliott knows all about being given expectations and surpassing them. Hell, he was being pegged as the next Dale Earnhardt Jr. when he was barely old enough to drink. Now, with one championship under his belt, he’s already done what Junior could never do in the Cup Series.
What’s next for Elliott? Will he be able to match his mentor Jeff Gordon’s four championships or even make a run at Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt’s seemingly untouchable seven titles? The pressure for greatness is there, and Elliott has seemingly embraced its privilege.