Feb 28, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT
It doesn’t get much better than this.
When Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. needed a fill-in spotter for Friday’s practice and qualifying, as well as Saturday’s practice at Phoenix International Raceway, he couldn’t have picked a better candidate with impeccable credentials.
With Bill Elliott also at PIR to help and serve as spotter for son Chase in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race, Earnhardt asked Awesome Bill from Dawsonville if he’d be his spotter, as well.
Let’s see, a former Sprint Cup champion, a NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee and the only driver who has more Most Popular Driver trophies (16) than Earnhardt (11) – yep, it was a no-brainer for Earnhardt.
And it was a no-brainer for Elliott, who promptly accepted the invitation.
Earnhardt’s usual spotter, TJ Majors, was unable to make the trip due to an intestinal infection, so Earnhardt didn’t have to look far for a replacement, especially since Chase Elliott drives for the Earnhardt-owned JR Motorsports’ Nationwide Series team.
Talking to the NASCAR Wire Service before Friday’s first practice, Earnhardt was excited to have Elliott atop the spotter’s stand at PIR.
“It’s going to be a difficult situation not having (Majors), but we’ve got Bill Elliott, of all people, (who) is going to fill in during practice,” Earnhardt said. “That’s going to be pretty awesome.
“A lot of Most Popular Driver awards right there, like 27, or something like that. It’ll be interesting going through knockout qualifying, me and Bill both for the first time.”
The combination clicked right from the get-go: In their first practice together, Elliott helped pace Earnhardt to the fastest speed of the session with a best lap of 138.723 mph.
Then with Elliott giving him more great directions, Earnhardt did very well in NASCAR’s new qualifying procedures, earning the fifth starting spot for Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500.
Alas, all good things must come to an end. Because he’ll be flying back home with his son after Saturday’s Nationwide Series race, Bill Elliott will not be on the spotter’s stand on Sunday. Jeff Dickerson, who has filled in for Majors in the past, will assume those duties.
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