Chase Elliott was on a mission from the time the team unloaded at Anderson (S.C.) Motor Speedway for Saturday’s ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour Anderson 100. After leading practice and qualifying second, Elliott started the No. 9 Aaron’s Dream Machine in eighth and worked his way methodically to the front of the field to claim his first win in the competitive ASA SAT series.
“This has been a long weekend, but this is the perfecting ending, to be here celebrating this win with the team,” Elliott said from Victory Lane at Anderson. “We have all been putting in long hours at the shop getting both cars ready for Pensacola and Anderson, and I just can’t thank these guys enough for working so hard. Pensacola was definitely a learning experience for us, but I think that gave us more drive tonight to come here and run strong. The car tonight was perfect, Ricky (Turner, crew chief) gave me an awesome car and it shows because here we are with our first ASA SAT win…and those aren’t easy to get, this is a tough series. I can’t wait to get to Lanier next weekend and see if we can keep this momentum going. A big thank you to Aaron’s and all of our product sponsors who support us and let us have fun doing what we love to do.”
“From the first laps Chase took on the speedway, there was just a determination in him that I almost had to try and calm him down a bit,” crew chief Ricky Tuner said. “We unloaded good, thankfully, and were good in practice really, from the start. We parked the car with about an hour to go in the final practice. Chase did a good job racing and saving his tires and we were able to achieve our first ASA SAT win of the season. I was really proud of the whole team effort.”
After topping the leader board in practice, Elliott laid down a 15.69-second lap during qualifying, just 0.05 seconds off the lap of fast qualifier TJ Reaid. As luck would have it, Elliott drew the highest number, an eight, in the random draw for starting position, dropping him to the outside of the fourth row for the start of the Anderson 100.
Elliott, who takes the calls from his dad Bill Elliott up in the spotters’ stand, settled into eighth at the drop of the green flag, hitting his marks and focusing on conserving his tires for the end of the 100-lap race. On lap 40, Elliott switched gears and set up Max Gresham in the No. 7-11. After clearing Gresham and moving into seventh on lap 41, Elliott picked up two more positions before the half-way mark to move into the top-five.
On lap 53, Elliott cleared fellow Georgia driver Jason Hogan’s No. 92 and then took over third place from local Late Model veteran No. 32 Randy Porter the following lap. With leader Austin Hill a half a straight-away ahead of them, TJ Reaid and Elliott hooked up and reeled in the No. 24. On lap 84, the two Georgia young guns made their way around Hill to move into first and second.
On lap 86, Elliott moved the Aaron’s Dream Machine around the No. 41 to take over the lead from Reaid. After surviving the first restart on lap 88, Elliott avoided what could have been a tragic ending to a dominating run when he and No. 84 Clay Alexander, who was a lap down, made contact, sending Alexander spinning. As Elliott approached the No. 84, Alexander moved up the track and Elliott, thinking he was moving out of the way of the leaders, started to drive by him on the inside, just as Alexander started moving back down. The contact sent the No. 84 into a half spin while the Aaron’s Dream Machine drove on.
As the laps wound down, Elliott’s strategy to save his tires for the end of the race proved to be the right move, as he was able to keep Reaid in his rearview mirror. Elliott kept the No. 9 Aaron’s Dream Machine out front on the final single-file restart on lap 96 and cruised to his first victory in the ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour and his third win in only 16 Pro Late Model starts.
The team, although excited over the big win, was undoubtedly ready for some R-and-R on Sunday. After working long days repairing the damaged car from Montgomery, the Aaron’s Dream Machine team travelled to Pensacola, Florida, Friday morning for Elliott’s first Super Late Model start at the legendary Five Flags Speedway. After missing Thursday’s practice, the team was behind the eight ball but felt confident after an hour and a half of practice Friday.
Elliott qualified the No. 9 Aaron’s Dream Machine in twelfth, only a tenth and a half off the pole set by local racer Augie Grill. In a field of Super Late Model stars, including Grill, Johanna Long and Bubba Pollard, Elliott ran as high as ninth but faded late in the race to finish 18th. The team admitted they missed the set-up and were facing an uphill battle being Elliott’s first Super Late Model start and first start at the tough half-mile Five Flags Speedway, but they took it as a learning experience – and Elliott gained track time with some of the Southeast’s best drivers.
Elliott and the No. 9 Aaron’s Dream Machine team return to their home track, Lanier National Speedway, this weekend for Saturday’s 100-lap Georgia Asphalt Series race. With two GAS wins this season, Elliott currently sits second in the championship standings, only 20 points out of first. For more information about Saturday’s race, please visit www.LanierSpeedway.com.