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Track promotion has Chase Elliott flush with good luck charms

Chase Elliott's fans embraced the challenge of trying to improve the driver's luck. AP Photo/Paul Abell

Chase Elliott didn't mind that Atlanta Motor Speedway used the fact he hasn't won a NASCAR Cup race to help promote its event this weekend.

He just hopes it doesn't have to continue such promotions in the future.

Nearly 35 years ago, Charlotte Motor Speedway had fans send in good luck charms for Bill Elliott, who went on to win later that year (1983) at Riverside in his 116th career start.

Prior to that win, Bill Elliott had posted eight runner-up finishes. He is now a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

His son, Chase, has seven second-place finishes and would like to have his father keep the family record of most before the first Cup win. And Elliott, at 78 career Cup starts, is looking for a win long before race 116.

So he enjoyed seeing all the trinkets and other items (rabbit's feet, anyone?) that people sent in to wish him luck.

"There were a lot of teddy bears," Elliott said. "[There were] a lot of St. Patrick's Day charm items sent it. ... It's a cool deal, and I appreciate everyone's support for jumping on board and being willing to support something like that."

Elliott will start 27th in the Folds of Honor 500, scheduled for Sunday. The start time of the race has been moved an hour earlier to 1 p.m. ET because of the threat of rain. If the drivers don't complete 170 laps Sunday, they will try to race Monday.

For Elliott, the most frustrating second-place finishes were the ones in which he felt he made mistakes.

He had a stout car for the Daytona 500 last week, but he ended up getting loose while making a move and triggered a nine-car crash 102 laps into the 200-lap race. He finished 33rd after having high hopes after his win in his qualifying race three days earlier.

Elliott didn't stay for the rest of the race.

"It wasn't that I was too frustrated to watch, I think I was just ready to go home more than anything," Elliott said.

Feeling sore for a couple of days after the vicious hit into the wall, Elliott said he was 100 percent for this weekend.

There also are likely sore feelings by drivers caught up in that wreck.

"There is going to be frustration," Elliott said. "I was frustrated. I think everybody was frustrated. We just got past the halfway point and half the field got crashed in one wreck and unfortunately, I was the guy that was ahead of the rest of them.

"So I can definitely take some blame for it."

But he isn't taking all the blame.

"Everybody is trying to take advantage of situations, and if you don't take advantage of a situation, you get taken advantage of by somebody else," Elliott said. "I think everybody was being aggressive. I certainly was, but I know that the whole field was all day.

"And, you have to kind of set that precedent, because if you let a guy run over you or make a move on you, he's going to count on that every time. So I just think you have to do what you think is right, go with your gut, and it didn't work out last weekend. I think it's hard to point fingers in an incident like that."

As for making judgments, Elliott also cautioned to not read too much into Atlanta, the first downforce track for the new Chevrolet body.

Last year, Toyota introduced a new body, and the Joe Gibbs Racing teams didn't find their groove until May.

"We saw other manufacturers come here last year being their first week and didn't necessarily fire off the best, but were the best before it was over with," Elliott said. "I think you have to give [the new Camaro] a little bit of time. You have to work through some of the things. The bodies are different.

"That means you are going to see different numbers in the wind tunnel. That means your balance sheets and your sims that you work on the computer, all that stuff is going to be different."

Elliott, in talking after Friday's practice, was unsure of how he will race as he still looks at that elusive first win.

"I hope we hit it this weekend, don't get me wrong -- I'm not making an excuse," Elliott said. "Either it will be good or it won't, but I think we have to work through some of the differences.

"We have seen some of those differences [in practice Friday]. There's no reason why we can't fix it ... and try to get it as good as we can and hopefully better than the rest."