“This is the most important win of my career, just for Mr. Pippin,” said Ellis, who won Wallys with the old G2 team of George Smith and George Bryce and raced with Vance & Hines on the Harry Lartigue-owned, Kuryakyn Buell. “Junior’s such an awesome individual and I’m really proud to be a part of his team. It’s an amazing deal for our team and our families.

“We’re all just praying that Junior comes through this. He wants to get back out here. He’s really excited and this deal right here just gives him more momentum.”

“I tell you what I want—I want to ride my motorcycle,” said Junior, who last donned helmet and leathers in 2013. “But today we’ve won and got the Wally—I don’t want to figure out how much money we’ve got in it—but it was worth every dime, you hear me?”

For the first time ever, Ellis also qualified in Super Stock in a Junior Pippin Trucking-sponsored Roy Hills Mustang with a motor built by Moore, Moyer and their staff.

“I had an amazing time driving that car,” said Ellis. “It was a real challenge for me because everything we do on the motorcycle, we do with our hands. You let go of the clutch with your left hand and turn the throttle with your right hand, and we don’t use out feet for anything other than putting on the pegs and steering the bike a little bit.

“But being in the car and having to let go of the trans-brake with your right hand, pushing the gas pedal with your foot, and the staging procedure and not being able to see because you sit so low in the car—it was a big challenge for me and I really enjoyed it.”

“But we are a small team and we don’t have a big crew, so if anything, it was a lot on me and my guys to pick up my slack from not working on the bike (when he was driving the car).”

Picking up some of that slack was Chip’s 14-year-old daughter, McKenzie. “She serviced the clutch every round, and every time she does that, we go rounds,” noted Chip. “So McKenzie, you’re not going to school anymore.

“As tight as the field is right now, it’s tough drag racing. This is the kind of racing we enjoy, and we’ll see what the good Lord has to offer me,” Pippin said. “And I’m smart enough to know, we might not be there a week from now, but right now we are.

“We’ve been workin’ and strugglin’ all year, but I give all the glory to God, because that’s who’s been pulling the strings in my life. Chip fights the Big C, which is competition, and I fight the Big C, which is cancer.

“I’m getting stronger. I’m up to doing 17 push-ups, I feel better, I’m extremely light—which is what I want to be. Actually, I feel fine. They just tell me I have a spot (about the size of a pea on top of his left lung), we’re gonna go in there and take it out and see what we’ve got. The way the lung doctors talk, they think it’s cancer. But they also thought my two lymph nodes had cancer, and they didn’t. So they say I’ll be out of work for six weeks, but I think I can trim that down to about three.

“But that’s the way it goes. We’re gonna get the handle on this little problem, and hopefully I’ll be riding in Gainesville (to start the 2017 season) with at least two bikes.”

“Junior’s sponsored me since I was 8 years old, and now he sponsors my boy Cooper,” said Atlanta Dragway racer Jeremy Hancock. “He and my dad, Mark, are very good friends and they always raced motorcycles together. He’s helped me for 22 years now and I really appreciate all he’s done for us.”

“Me and his daddy used to hang out at Yellow River Dragstrip,” Pippin said about Jeremy, and Junior clearly relishes sponsoring this family’s racing into a third generation.

“I race Top Dragster, my wife has a Super Comp dragster, and my dad has a little Vega,” said Jeremy. “And then there’s Cooper. He’s driving the same car I’ve had since ’92. It’s his first year racing. He has three wins in four finals and won the track championship. My boy’s just wearin’ them out!”

Pippin’s association with the Hancock family is indicative of the way he establishes relationships for the long haul. “I’m just truly blessed to have the people that the good Lord has surrounded me with,” said Junior. “I know I have an immediate family, but in my life, some things have happened here of late, and I did not realize how big of a family I actually had but Lord it is huge. And the thing of it is, I had no idea. So many of the racers have prayed for me and it’s just been a humbling experience.”

And now Junior, Chip and the whole Junior Pippin Trucking team hope to deliver a humbling experience to the competition through the remainder of the Countdown.