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Chip Ellis’ dramatic Pro Stock Motorcycle (PSM) win on Junior Pippin’s Buell at the NHRA Carolina Nationals was only the latest chapter in Pippin’s long history of racing and the recent resurgence of his PSM team.
The victory legitimized an eight-year engine program that has only fully showed its potential since Ellis joined the team last year and put his vast Buell clutch tuning experience to work. With number one qualifiers and final round appearances, the Pippin-powered Buell was suddenly an object of great interest from the competition every time it rolled into the staging lanes.
But as a win eluded the team, the 64-year-old Pippin joined his wife, Lisa, as a cancer patient, and winning NOW seemed that much more important. With rare, inoperable nasal cancer, Junior was pelted with 35 radiation treatments and eight chemo treatments.
“What’s amazing is the amount of people that’s come up to me and said things like ‘I remember 1985, Junior let me borrow his bike,’ or ‘He let me use his truck,’ or whatever,” said Ellis. “He’s just a generous guy and I’d appreciate if everyone keeps praying for him, not just from a racing point of view but from an all-around good guy point of view.”
That “good guy point of view” showed in spades when, immediately following this landmark first win for his team, Junior had something else he wanted to talk about.
“Hey, I’ve got a boy I sponsor in Junior Dragster down here at Atlanta Dragway,” said Pippin, and he wanted to make sure that 6-year-old Cooper Hancock was congratulated on his win and track championship in the 6-9 year-old class.
“Good guy” is also used to describe Ellis, whose seventh PSM win (but first since 2008) was warmly celebrated by even those who’d lost—including the Screamin’ Eagle/Vance&Hines Harley-Davidson team of final round runner-up Andrew Hines.
“Chip is a fine man, I wanna tell you that right now,” said Pippin. “Anybody that knows Chip Ellis knows what he’s about. This day and time, it’s hard to find people that work like Chip Ellis. He gives it all he’s got and it shows.”
After leading the opening round of Charlotte qualifying, Ellis settled into fourth in the qualifying order despite running strong—including second quickest of the final session. “I usually bet Ken Johnson (Star Racing crew chief) a 6-pack before every race, but I was so confident today that I said ‘Let’s race for a case.’”
As eliminations got underway, it looked like Ellis’ confidence might have been misplaced. A .007 reaction time by first round opponent Shawn Gann put Chip in an .055 hole, but a 6.87 low ET of the round drove him around Gann for the winlight.
Round 2 started off similarly, but L.E. Tonglet’s Suzuki didn’t shift up top and Ellis breezed past to the semifinals where Chip met good friend and long-time rival Angelle Sampey. This time both bikes left within .001 of each other and were fairing-to-fairing at the 60-foot block before Sampey, too, had shifting problems.