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Georgia football embraces NASCAR star Chase Elliott
ATHENS, Ga. — Kirby Smart’s mind was racing when discussing Chase Elliott’s victory speech.
Smart, a 1998 finance graduate from the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business and four-time member of the SEC academic honor roll, was more than willing to delve into a stock report of different sorts on Tuesday.
The Peach State’s feel-good story of the week started Sunday afternoon, when the 22-year-old Elliott scored his first career stock car victory at the sport’s premier level at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International road course.
It was an important and popular win for the NASCAR series, as the young Elliott is considered a prince in the sport, the son of hall of fame driver Bill Elliott.
Smart was quick to do his homework after Chase Elliott said he drew motivation before the race by watching Smart’s presentation at SEC Media Days, when the Georgia football coach said “The pressure is really a privilege,” as it related to the high expectations for his program.
— Mike Griffith (@MikeGriffith32) July 18, 2018
Smart drew a parallel between Chase Elliott and his Georgia football program on Tuesday, saying he hopes the Bulldogs can follow Elliott’s lead and breakthrough for the top spot after last season’s runner-up finish.
“He’s had a lot of close, close finishes,” Smart said, “and now for him to push it over the top, that’s what we’re trying to do as well.’’
No doubt, Chase Elliott had eight second-place finishes at the Cup level before scoring his first race win in his 99th start.
Georgia football, much to its followers chagrin, has developed a reputation as a program that can’t finish a season on top, even before last season’s second half and second-and-26 meltdown in the national title game.
Chase Elliott had dealt with similar criticism, some critics wondering if he had what it took to finish races strong.
“Kirby Smart had a speech about pressure is a privilege — I had that on repeat this morning on the bus, just thinking about it,” Elliott said in the post-race interview. “I thought we had a chance today and I wanted to make sure that if we were in a position to capitalize, we did.”
Smart, who is entering his third season as Georgia head coach, is hoping his team will respond to the 2018 season catchphrase in the same fashion.
It’s worth nothing Chase Elliott’s first major win came in his third full season in the series.
Georgia sent Chase Elliott a No. 9 Bulldogs jersey last February before he drove in the NASCAR race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Smart indicated he’d like for the relationship to continue to grow.
“He’s been to some events and he’s been to some of our games,” Smart said. “I actually have plans to reach out to him and thank him for sharing our message and being a Dawg fan.”
Bill Elliott’s former NASCAR publicist shared with DawgNation that former Georgia football player Bill Goldberg was good friends with the Elliott family and actually lived in Dawsonville for a couple of years.
“Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” was one of the greatest drivers of his era and a source of Georgia pride in motorsports. Bill Elliott won the series championship in 1988 and recorded the fastest qualifying speed in NASCAR history (212.809 mph, 1987). He won Nascar’s Most Popular Driver Award a record 16 times (1984-1988, 1991-2000, 2002).
Smart said he came up with this season’s slogan about pressing being a privilege from tennis great Billie Jean King.
“She talked about it a long time ago (and) I probably should’ve given her credit at the SEC Media Days, but I wasn’t thinking about it then,” Smart said Tuesday. “It’s certainly a great statement and it’s so true that it really is a privilege.
“She told [Maria] Sharapova that and we even showed the players a tape of that and that message is always there so you can choose to be one of two things: you can say you’re the underdog or you can say that being good under pressure is a privilege; and it really is a privilege and I would much rather be in that situation.’’
The 74-year-old King is a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and in 1972 she was joint winner of Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year with UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.
One of King’s finest moments took place on Sept. 20, 1973, when she defeated Bobby Riggs in what was known as the “Battle of the Sexes,” 6-4, 6-3 and 6-3 in Houston.
Georgia football freshman running back James Cook was one of the most impressive players at Fan Day on Saturday, his explosive speed and sticky hands on display for all to see at Sanford Stadium.
— James Cook (@thegreat__4) August 4, 2018
Smart referred to Cook’s performance as “special” in Tuesday’s post-practice interview session.
“When you go back and watch the tape of that practice he had a lot of balls, it just happened that way, it wasn’t like it was by design, like it was going to be ‘James Cook Feature Day,’ “ Smart said. “He had some plays that he hit and he looked really good and he had really good GPS numbers.
“I can’t say that’s been every practice, it hasn’t stuck out like that. He’s an exciting player, he loves football, he’s tough, he’s not afraid to compete with anybody at 185 pounds. I really like watching the guy play.”
Georgia football is already throwing out suggestions for the Butkus Award Committee, tweeting out a photo of outside linebacker D’Andre Walker.
— Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) August 7, 2018
Departed inside backer Roquan Smith became the first Georgia player in history to win the award last season. The award goes to the nation’s top linebacker each season.
Georgia football overlooked?
It was a fair question to ask during my weekly radio appearance on Nashville’s WNSR, and host Bill King also put me on the spot asking for a comparison between Tennessee and Georgia football!
— WNSR (@NashSportsRadio) August 7, 2018
Georgia football QB comparison
The Birmingham radio hosts on WJOX wanted to talk about Jalen Hurts’ situation, but ultimately Justin Fields name came up.
Seeing is believing was my message in my weekly Monday spot on Alabama airwaves.
— WJOX 94.5 FM (@WJOX945) August 6, 2018
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