ELLIS TALKS ABOUT PASSING OF HIS FRIEND, HERO PIPPIN
Veteran NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Chip Ellis will be competing at the season-ending NHRA Auto Club Finals Friday through Nov. 12 in Pomona, Calif., with a heavy heart.
On Nov. 5, Eliis’ good friend, Junior Pippin, who he had be driving for since mid-May of 2015 passed away. Pippin, who lived in Conyers, Ga., was 64.
“He was a friend, he was a brother and he was one of my heroes,” Ellis said in an interview with CompetitionPlus.com Thursday night. “He’s just that guy who everybody wanted to be around and hang out with because he was such a good guy who was generous, and he just loved being around everybody. He was just a great, great, great guy. There’s no other way to describe him. He was generous. He was honest and he was a lot of fun. He always told good stories and he would always make you laugh. His pit is the pit you wanted to hang out in.”
It was announced Nov. 2, Ellis would ride a third Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Street Rod at the season-ending NHRA Auto Club Finals as a tribute to Junior Pippin, which means even more to Ellis now.
“I’ve had a heavy heart since I got that call (Nov. 5 about Pippin’s passing),” Ellis said. “I’m just going to try and keep focused and I will have him riding with me. That will be a blessing.”
According to Ellis, Pippin began racing Harley-Davidson motorcycles in 1969.
“He’s always done drag racing and he’s always raced Harleys, so it is kind of fitting that we are able to put his name on this Harley-Davidson this weekend (in Pomona),” Ellis said. “If you made him run a Suzuki then he wouldn’t even come to the races. He’s just that guy. He’s always been the V-Twin guy.”
Ellis had been racing for Pippin since mid-May of the 2015 season.
Ellis finished sixth in the 2015 points standings – highlighted by two runner-up finishes at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, and Reading, Pa., and three No. 1 qualifier spots at Englishtown, N.J., Chicago and Indy.
Then, in 2016, Ellis placed fifth in the points standings and captured one win at the fall race in Charlotte, N.C. This season, Ellis has competed in nine races and is 14th in the points.
Pippin was diagnosed with nasal cancer shortly after the NHRA’s Route 66 Nationals July 9-12 of 2015 in Chicago, and he started chemotherapy and radiation Aug. 31 of that year.
“The thing with him was that it was a low-pressure deal and we worked really hard to make the program the best it could be,” Ellis said. “He just loved being at the race track. He had fun when he was here. He wanted to hang out with his friends and see everybody and he wanted to race, and he wanted to kick everybody’s a**. We did have some success along the way and to be a part of his program and win a race for him and qualify well and run well was very rewarding. I think for him to compete at the top level in motorcycle drag racing was a dream come true for him and I’m just proud to be a part of the deal. There’s not another guy in the world who I would rather race for.”
When Ellis competes this weekend, he will be wearing his Junior Pippin leathers, and he wants to do his best for Pippin.
“It would be great if we could win, but I just want to get on the bike and make some good laps and make him proud because I know he’s looking over me,” Ellis said. “It’s a celebration of his life out here as far as I’m concerned. To be able to ride the Harley-Davidson is a big deal, but to be able to pay tribute to him and wear my Junior Pippin leathers while riding the Harley is good me, it’s good for him, and I think it’s good for his family. His family is excited about this deal. I’m just looking forward to popping the clutch (Friday) at noon.”