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Fall is Chase Elliott’s favorite time of year for many reasons, not the least of which are fast cars and football.
“I’m a big sports fan so, not to be selfish, but first and foremost, the NASCAR season has always been the top of my list, and this is the most important, hyped-up part of our year,” Elliott told NBC Sports. “The energy level is the highest, and I like that. I think it’s awesome. That level of energy makes you more excited to go to the track. There’s something on the line. This week something could end for you or not. I like that.
“That’s a great thing that we have this time of year. Football is coming on TV, and I love watching both college and NFL. Baseball’s getting down to the playoffs in October, so as a sports fan, I’m not sure what else you could ask for right now. The weather is cooling off, so I feel like it’s a lot of good.”
The defending Cup Series champion found himself Thursday night at a celebrity-tinged nexus of NASCAR and the NFL.
Elliott was featured with actor Chris Pratt, platinum recording artist Breland and off-road racer Chad Hall in a national campaign for Chevrolet’s 2022 Silverado ZR2 pickup truck that launched with a commercial during the NFL season opener between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys.
Though the three-time Most Popular Driver has been the focus of marketing initiatives for myriad sponsors, Elliott said the Silverado ad was his most transcendent exposure opportunity since winning the 2020 title in NASCAR’s premier series.
“I’d have to say that our results last year and the championship had an impact,” the Hendrick Motorsports star said about being selected for the commercial. “Chevy is very involved with what we do and one of our biggest partners at HMS, and they’ve been great to me (as) the only manufacturer I’ve driven for since I’ve been in NASCAR. Obviously, when they want to include you in something like a launch of a new vehicle, these are the things that we as consumers see when we are watching a race or a football game or a baseball game. It is humbling to think that they wanted me to be a part of that launch. Just grateful for that.
“(It’s) absolutely, kind of crazy. Not many years ago, I would not have imagined me being a part of something like that. So just really appreciate them having the confidence and putting confidence in me.”
In another indicator of his brand appeal, the Dawsonville, Georgia, native also made a cameo on ESPN’s College Gameday in Charlotte last weekend (his Georgia Bulldogs defeated the Clemson Tigers several hours later).
But an NBC audience of more than 20 million watching Elliott tow his boat to the lake in the Chevrolet commercial was “definitely the biggest one I’ve done this year — and in some time — that really gets me outside of your average fan that follows us predominantly. I think anytime that we as race car drivers and anybody that’s involved in any other sports can depart your normal landscape and go be in front of people that watch something else. I think that is super helpful for me, but also I hope I can help bring some NASCAR fans their direction.
“Anytime you have an opportunity to take your platform to another level, there’s a lot of good things that you can take from that. That’s where my mind goes is if I grow my platform and grow my reach, I can make a bigger difference. We had a great initiative this past weekend with children’s health care and NAPA. I just think about things like that that could potentially gain even more traction if my platform is raised, and that bar is a little higher.”
Creating more online content through a digital and social staff he described as “very small,” Elliott, 25, already had been working on building his brand last season prior to winning the Cup championship.
This year, he launched a YouTube channel after hiring Noah Halford, who had worked on digital and social for the University of Georgia football team.
“We just tried to put some more emphasis on getting content at the racetrack,” Elliott said. “You always have photographers around, but I think more so in the last few years, you’ve seen guys really try to take that content and get more that you can use for yourself. We certainly took a step in doing some of that this year. I feel like we’ve done a much better job, and we’ve captured some really cool stuff and look forward to doing more.”
Elliott’s YouTube unveiled a 10-minute feature Wednesday entitled “Bigger Than Racing” about the Southern 500 design of the No. 9 Chevrolet by Mary Francis Webb, a 15-year-old cancer patient from Athens, Georgia (Elliott’s charitable foundation worked with Hendrick and NAPA on the project).
Catch an inside look on an incredible weekend 🤙🏼 #DESI9NTODRIVE
— Chase Elliott (@chaseelliott) September 10, 2021
The channel, which started two months ago, also has showcased a lighter, less guarded side of the admittedly introverted Elliott, who tends to avoid the spotlight. The debut video was a self-deprecating look at Elliott hacking around a golf course.
“Noah said, ‘Hey, what do you think about filming this,’ and I’m like, ‘We can film it. I’m terrible, but we can film it,’ ” Elliott said with a laugh. “When you have a creative person, you want to let them use their imagination and exemplify what they see in creativity. I think that’s important. You want to let them have some freedom. Even though it might not be me wanting to do it at first, the finished product has been really cool. It’s allowed people to see a different side of me, I guess, and kind of get into some spaces that I wouldn’t typically share. That’s what that creative content is for is try to grow that exposure some.
“(Halford) has been super helpful taking pictures at the racetrack, making a lot of these videos and just helping take that side of things to the next level. It’s been super helpful to have somebody here and local that I can work with and also get a lot of work done for sponsors.”
After crashing and finishing 31st at Darlington Raceway, Elliott will work Saturday night on reversing his playoff fortunes at Richmond Raceway (prerace begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
In his past six races at the 0.75-mile track, Elliott has three top fives and three finishes outside the top 10 (including a “really bad” 12th in the April 18 race won by teammate Alex Bowman).
“We’ve had some good finishes I guess, but I still feel like Richmond is a place that has just been really hit or miss,” Elliott said. “We had a good run there last fall, and then we were kind of back to just terrible I felt like in the spring, so it’s a tough place.
“Richmond is just … it’s such a boring track to drive. It’s just really hard to be different. Everybody is just doing the same thing. The track surface is super smooth. The corners are super symmetrical. Everything is just kind of blah, and that’s what makes it good racing, because it is so hard to be different. It’s been a struggle, and the margin of error of hitting it or not there is razor-thin.
“I look back in the past number of years, and I feel like the only guy who has run good consistently there has been Martin (Truex Jr.). I feel like every race, he’s always pretty good there, and the rest of us might be good one trip, and we might be just trash going a lap down the next trip. I see that from us and some other people, too. It tells me that it’s hard for everybody. We have our work cut out for us. All our eyes are on Richmond and what we can do to try to find some consistency and build off of what Alex had in the spring.”