first_imgThe conversation that eventually brought 62-year-old Hall of Famer Bill Elliott back to a NASCAR national series seems to have started as a lark. The initial suggestion by his son, Chase, was as simple as, “why not have Dad drive it?”By early July, with nary a contract or even a handshake to make it official, a shade-tree agreement was in place to turn Elliott’s comeback into a very real development. The light-hearted conversation quickly gained more serious momentum, a snowballing that even caught Elliott by surprise.“Hey, you’re going to do it. You’re in the car,” Elliott recalled being told.“I can’t talk you out of it?”“Nope, we done announced it.”“O-kay!”Zack Albert | NASCAR Digital MediaThe improbable news became more tangible Tuesday with GMS Racing unveiling the No. 23 Chevrolet that Elliott will drive in the Xfinity Series at Road America on Aug. 25. The car will sport a throwback paint scheme that dials the calendar back to Elliott’s 1994 Southern 500 victory with Junior Johnson.For good measure, GMS also unveiled the No. 23 Camaro for Spencer Gallagher, who will compete at Darlington Raceway with a design honoring 2019 NASCAR Hall inductee Davey Allison.RELATED: Darlington throwback paint schemesElliott’s car will see the track first, tackling the mammoth 4.048-mile Wisconsin road course. The news of his first national series start since 2012 shook the garage 10 days ago at Watkins Glen, one day before his son made headlines with his first Monster Energy Series triumph.The elder Elliott’s return has since been the subject of conjecture. His legend in stock-car racing circles has been cemented long before his enshrinement in NASCAR’s Hall in 2015. But there’s still a passion to drive that’s kept Elliott racing recreationally in vintage car circuits and an attempt just last week at Trans Am competition at Mid-Ohio (engine trouble before the start thwarted a full-fledged effort).“Why do it or why not do it. How do you know if you don’t try?” Elliott says. “It’s the flip side. Whether you win, lose or draw, you always try to do things extra at the end of the day. I think from this standpoint, let’s just go out and have a good time. There’s a lot of people who want to come up and watch me race. They said, ‘whatever you do, you do. That’s not the point. We just want to see you out there.’ I think there’s a lot to be said about that.”In the end, there’s likely to be more than merely making an appearance. Elliott will be jumping into a No. 23 ride that AJ Allmendinger guided to a runner-up Xfinity finish at Watkins Glen and that Gallagher piloted to eighth place last weekend at Mid-Ohio.GMS president Mike Beam says that even with the road-course momentum, the expectations still remain unknown for Elliott’s return. One certainty: Fun will likely be the overriding principle.“That’s the whole thing. You go to the race track now and people are so uptight,” Beam says. “You need to take it seriously, of course, but like Junior Johnson used to tell me, we’re one dancing bear away from being in a circus, really. So I know we’ve got some good stuff, and AJ and Spencer have run well the last two weekends. So Bill, he’s going to be fine. We’re excited. He’s a good road racer, and that’s what people lose sight of.“I know some people said yeah, he needs to stay retired. Well, he’s not really retired. He’s been racing quite a bit still.”Staying sharp with sports-car extracurriculars has helped Elliott shake that “retired” tag. But even as he hurtles toward senior citizenship, Elliott says he’s still bracing for the possibility of re-orientation as a rookie, complete with yellow stripes on his rear bumper.As an air-quotes rookie or not, Elliott says he has no preconceived notion of how Road America will unfold. Asked if those expectations might include a third straight road-course top 10 — or better — Elliott demurs, giving a nod to the current generation of Xfinity drivers.“I don’t know about that. Those kids are good,” Elliott says. “I’ve watched them. I see the other side of the world, you know.”last_img