Q&A with Canadian Racing Driver Gary Elliott
Gary Elliott has lived a life consumed by the exhilarating world of racing. From the earliest memories etched in his mind, he was captivated by the roar of engines and the adrenaline brewing on the track. Growing up in Nova Scotia, and later moving to Ontario, he recalls attending stock car races with his parents, eagerly rallying behind his idol and Canadian racing legend, Glen Schurr.
In 1969, Gary turned his love for racing into a full-fledged career in motorsports. It wasn't long before he teamed up with Quaker State, forming a legendary driver-sponsor relationship, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Together, they've created a lasting mark in the world of racing, leaving a legacy that will be celebrated for generations to come.
Quaker State caught up with Gary Elliott to learn more about the early days of his motorsports career, his favorite memories throughout the course of it, and what his longstanding relationship with the brand means to him.
QUAKER STATE: Are you able to pinpoint when your love of driving began?
ELLIOTT: When I was about 5 years old, in the early 1950s, my father used to take me to stock car races. I was so excited to experience the thrill of a stock car race that when I came home, I pretended to push my toy cars around my parent’s oval carpet, moving one car in front of the other.
QUAKER STATE: What inspired you to pursue a career in motorsports?
ELLIOTT: I knew I wanted to pursue a career in motorsports when I was 17 years old. At that age, my father asked me if I had a garage, tools, or a trailer available to use if I wanted to start racing, to which I responded that I didn’t. He told me that without those, I would find it pretty difficult to race. On top of needing those, I also needed a driver’s license, and I wasn’t 21 yet, which was the age minimum. So, I started demolition derbies because you didn’t need a license to wreck cars! Fast forward a few years later, in 1969, I started racing in the cheapest way possible. Then, 5 years down the road, I began working with Quaker State.
QUAKER STATE: Was there a driver you looked up to in the early days of your career?
ELLIOTT: When I first started racing, I really admired Canadian stock car driver, Glen Schurr. It was when I was first getting my car lettered that I knew I wanted to carry on Glen’s legacy by putting “36 For Schurr” on the hood of my car.
In 1989, when I won my first championship, Glen Schurr’s wife sent me his 1966 championship trophy to honor Glen’s legacy. From then on, I only changed my number once in 1985, when I was going to race in the United States and had to change my number to 9, and the car was painted like Bill Elliott’s NASCAR #9 car.
QUAKER STATE: What has it been like having Quaker State as a sponsor and supporter throughout your career?
ELLIOTT: It’s something that I like to brag about because I’m proud of the relationship we’ve built! Starting out my career on a low budget, I was thrilled to have any sponsor, let alone Quaker State on my hood and under it.
When I started racing, Quaker State gave me 4 cases of motor oil, and you would have thought they gave me everything I needed. Once I had been with them for 10 years, they gave me unlimited motor oil.
QUAKER STATE: Do you have any notable career highlights you are particularly proud of?
ELLIOTT: I’ve won two championships, one in 1989 and one in 1999. I’ve also won about 40 races and have had a bunch of second-place finishes. While the two championships are the most prestigious, having Quaker State as my sponsor is one of my proudest accomplishments.
QUAKER STATE: You will be celebrating your 50th anniversary with Quaker State at the Quaker State 400 this year, what does that mean to you?
ELLIOTT: I’m overwhelmed and excited because this has been quite a long-lasting relationship between myself and Quaker State. I’m looking forward to the race this year, as I will be bringing my daughter, whose 50th birthday falls on the same day as the Quaker State 400 race!
GARY ELLIOTT POSES INSIDE HIS #36 CAR WITH HIS DOG, BUTTONS
GARY ELLIOTT POSES INSIDE HIS #36 CAR WITH HIS DOG, BUTTONS
QUAKER STATE: We love seeing your dog on social media, does she enjoy traveling to races with you?
ELLIOTT: Buttons has been coming with me to races for a while now. She likes to sit in the trailer, and when I come off the track after a race, she stands up on her hind feet and barks for me. Although she hasn’t been in the car with me for a race, she enjoys sitting in the car and watching me race.
QUAKER STATE: What have you noticed has changed in motorsports since you first started?
ELLIOTT: When I first started racing, you had to do everything yourself. There weren’t race shops to get people to work on your car, and you had to understand the chassis and the welding of your car. Luckily, my dad was a welder, so he helped me a lot there. I also didn’t know much about the technical side of working on a car, but as time went on, I had a better grasp. I even used to go to the scrap yard to get parts for my car when I didn’t know what else to do. In 1989, while I had already been racing for 20 years, I got my first heated shop, and now, I’m starting to get a better grasp on how the technology in cars has advanced over the years.
QUAKER STATE: If you could sum up your career in motorsports in one word, what would it be?
ELLIOTT: Fun! I love and enjoy it, and I just want to go out and race as hard as I can whenever I can do so.
QUAKER STATE: What type of Quaker State motor oil goes in your car?
QUAKER STATE: Do you have any advice for aspiring drivers?
ELLIOTT: It’s called stock car racing, not stock car winning. The goal is to go and try to win, but if you don’t win, don’t get discouraged! Even if you do win, next week is never promised. Enjoy the sport and appreciate the people that surround you.
With that, I would like to thank my Nova Scotia crew: Shannon Riley, Bob Landry, Chris White, Jack Lynds, and Alex Coggins, and my crew in Ontario: David Eliott, Jim Hulzinga, Gehrig Halliday, Troy Stere, and Stephen Lippert, for all their hard work and dedication to helping me achieve my goals over the past 50 years with Quaker State. So far, we have won 260 races, have had 1,318 total career nights, and 875 consecutive nights since June 5th, 1987. Now we’re aiming for 1,000 nights in a row with the help of my team!
Gary Elliott can be found on Instagram, and make sure to keep an eye out for Gary at the Quaker State 400 this year!