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Chase Elliot
Photo by Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

Chase Elliott expands philanthropic reach ahead of Coca-Cola 600

For Chase Elliott, the timing to expand the reach of his charitable foundation was well-synced.

Elliott’s philanthropic efforts have already given a boost to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, a pediatric hospital in his home state of Georgia. Now in this season of Memorial Day remembrance and the recent re-launch of the annual NASCAR Salutes initiative, the 23-year-old driver is doing his part to support two more good causes connected to U.S. military members.

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The Chase Elliott Foundation announced Monday a partnership with apparel maker Untuckit to sell commemorative, American-made shirts featuring Elliott’s No. 9 as a trim detail. Both parties have planned donations in conjunction with the shirt’s release, benefitting the VFW Help a Hero Scholarship and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.

“Centered around Memorial Day this weekend, we thought it was a good time to do that,” Elliott says. “They’ve been a great partner and their support to the VFW Help a Hero Scholarship and then the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which is also the fund that’s on our car when NAPA does their patriotic scheme, has been pretty cool. So it’s really just a good time of year to do it, a fitting weekend and the program that came together with them made it all fit.”

Elliott’s contribution to the cause is part of the build-up to this Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), a key moment in the weeklong NASCAR Salutes program. The longest event of the Monster Energy Series season includes vivid pre-race pageantry with a military theme at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but it also provides an appreciation — something the NASCAR industry has warmly embraced.

“The whole sport, I feel like for years has done a great job trying to recognize the heroes amongst the country,” Elliott said. “This weekend has been huge in showing that. I don’t know that you could ever say thanks enough, but it’s a great weekend to continue that tradition. I look forward to being a small part of a great weekend.”

Elliott launched his foundation in March 2017. The organization’s signature promotion thus far has been the “Desi9n to Drive” program each year at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where patients at nearby Children’s Healthcare provide colorful designs on driving shoes for Elliott and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates. Auctions of the race-worn shoes have helped raise funds for the hospital.

“To me, I feel like the rewarding side of that has been being able to have some of the kids who are going through a rough time in their lives out to the race track in Atlanta, to get them and their families to come to an event just to get their mind off whatever they have going on,” Elliott says, reflecting on the foundation’s two-plus years in existence. “That’s probably the biggest thing we can do is just try to create a weekend or a day that they can come and enjoy it away from the hospital. Like I say, it’s a small piece, but if you brighten their day at all, it’s a bit of a win.”

PHOTOS: Chase Elliott’s rise up the NASCAR ladder

The days have been brighter for the Hendrick operation recently, with Elliott’s Talladega triumph last month providing a centerpiece moment. Elliott has led laps in bunches in six of the last seven races, but his teammates are also riding the modest gains — most notably teammate Alex Bowman, who has finished second in three consecutive events as he seeks his first career victory.

Elliott’s history in the Coca-Cola 600 has been an up-and-down tale, but the recent upturn in performance has also prompted a renewed confidence.

“It’s been encouraging to be more relevant the past few weeks, and just being able to battle for the lead has been a lot of fun,” Elliott says. “That obviously, you’d much rather be battling for the lead than battling for 10th or 15th. It’s not always going to work out for you, but just being up front has been nice and racing with those guys that are the ones to beat is always a good thing. Hopefully we can stay there and be amongst them.”