Race Weekend Central

Dropping the Hammer: Chase Elliott Takes Hooters Back to Victory Lane

It’s not often that you hear Chase Elliott admit to something making him emotional.

But the usually stoic – at least in public – Hendrick Motorsports driver did just that Sunday (April 14) after winning the NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Surprisingly, it had nothing to do with the fact that he had just snapped a 42-race winless streak.

Instead, it had to with the sponsor on his No. 9 Chevrolet – Hooters – and the last driver to win with it as a primary sponsor in the Cup Series: Alan Kulwicki.

“Hooters has been a partner of ours for a number of years now,” Elliott said on the fronstretch during his TV interview. “It’s been a dream of mine to pay respect to the late Alan Kulwicki. Driving this car to a victory and do a Polish victory lap, just really crazy how things came full circle there in that moment.

“It was pretty emotional for me.

“He beat dad (Bill Elliott) back in the day. Here we are sharing his sponsor and having an opportunity to win today.”

Let’s put this in perspective.

The last time Hooters went to victory lane in the NASCAR Cup Series was on June 14, 1992, when Kulwicki took his No. 7 Ford to victory lane at Pocono Raceway, defeating Mark Martin and Bill Elliott.

At the time, Harrison Ford’s Patriot Games was the No. 1 movie in America and Mariah Carey’s “I’ll Be There” topped the Billboard Hot 100 (“Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-A-Lot was No. 2).

Five months later, Kulwicki claimed the Cup Series championship, besting Elliott by just 10 points.

Twenty-five years passed.

In 2017, having sponsored drivers like Brett Bodine, Rick Mast, Elton Sawyer, Loy Allen Jr. (and Greg Biffle for one race in a tribute to Kulwicki), Hooters finally tied its hopes to Chase Elliott, who was in his second full-time Cup season and winless.

For seven years Elliott remained winless … with Hooters on his car.

Before Sunday, Elliott had Hooters as his primary sponsor in 21 races, finishing second three times.

When the checkered flag waved, I didn’t even think about associating the history of Kulwicki and Bill Elliott to the moment. I just thought it was cool that a long-time sponsor in the sport had finally had its dedication rewarded.

But all those layers were on Chase Elliott’s mind.

“As soon as the race was over, I was like, ‘Man, we finally got our opportunity to do it and pay respect to (Kulwicki) and the partnership,'” Elliott said. “Hooters has been around for a long time. Just kind of to see that whole deal come full circle with his championship run, outrunning my dad, they’re now a partner of mine, ended a long winless drought for them and myself, too, and our team.

“Yeah, really special in a lot of ways. Pretty fitting when you kind of look at it.”

Hooters hasn’t been the only long-time NASCAR sponsor to get its due in recent years.

Three years ago, when Bubba Wallace scored his first career Cup win at Talladega Superspeedway, it also marked a huge moment for his primary sponsor, McDonald’s.

The Golden Arches hadn’t been on a winning car of a points race since 1994 when Jimmy Spencer won two races that season – at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega.

It notably went winless for years as a sponsor of Bill Elliott (aside from a Daytona 500 qualifying race in 2000), Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, Ross Chastain and many others.

See also
Stock Car Scoop: Is Chase Elliott Back?

There are very few sponsors in NASCAR that are still around from the sport’s 1990s and 2000s peak, let alone those that could claim such long losing streaks like McDonald’s and Hooters.

Except maybe the biggest sponsor of them all.

When was the last time Coca-Cola went to victory lane as a primary sponsor?

Anyone?

Bueller?

Bueller?

If you thought that, surely at some point Coke has gone to victory lane as a primary sponsor in the decades that the Coca-Cola Racing Family program has existed, you’d be wrong.

Not even when the company sponsored eight cars in the 2004 Pepsi 400, with the long-defunct Coca-Cola C2, was it able to beat the lone Pepsi car driven by Jeff Gordon.

Nope, the last time a driver who had a Coke logo on his hood or the majority of the car went to victory lane, was Sept. 1, 1975.

That’s when Bobby Allison and Coke won the Southern 500.

But records were made to be broken and sponsor losing streaks were meant to be snapped.

And hey, Chase Elliott is part of the Coca-Cola family now.

While the Georgia native hasn’t had the Atlanta-based drink as a primary sponsor yet, who better to snap another historic losing streak?

About the author

Daniel McFadin is a 10-year veteran of the NASCAR media corp. He wrote for NBC Sports from 2015 to October 2020. He currently works full time for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and is lead reporter and an editor for Frontstretch. He is also host of the NASCAR podcast "Dropping the Hammer with Daniel McFadin" presented by Democrat-Gazette.

You can email him at danielmcfadin@gmail.com.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
MikeinAZ

Although I didn’t want him to win, it was great hearing Chase E mention/talk about Alan Kulwicki.

Last edited 1 month ago by MikeinAZ
Share via