Racing legend Bill Elliott has built one of the most distinguished records in NASCAR Cup history. Throughout his career he has radiated a modest and friendly personality that has endeared him to race fans of all ages. From cutting up car bodies in the early days to winning NASCAR's first million dollar bonus, Bill Elliott has seen and done it all. Though quiet and unpretentious, this NASCAR Cup champion has been dazzling fans with his racing ability for an amazing three decades.
A family affair
Hard work and a passion for the art of racing turned an eager young driver from a small Georgia town into a NASCAR Winston Cup champion. But, it was the strength and support of his family that first launched Bill Elliott into racing. George Elliott, the family patriarch, started bringing his three boys, Ernie, Dan and Bill, to the racetrack. The whole family was passionate about racing and it wasn't long before the Elliott boys were behind the wheel. Elliott's father is noted as saying, ""Actually, I got my boys into racing because I wanted them to stay away from the back roads. If they were going to be driving fast, I wanted them to do it in the right place." During events local tracks, like the Dixie Speedway in Woodstock, Georgia, the Elliott's could see their youngest son Bill had raw, natural talent for the sport. Nineteen year-old Bill could rocket around a racetrack in high-speed, rubber burning, record setting fashion.
It wasn't long before the Elliott’s began entering races on a consistent basis. In 1976, the family found themselves in the sports elite series. On Feb. 29, 1976, at North Carolina Speedway, 20-year-old Elliott entered his first Winston Cup race. The Elliott family once struggled to pay the entry fees for their races but now they were a fierce and ferocious force on the NASCAR circuit. Triumphantly, Elliott won his first pole on April 10, 1981 at Darlington Raceway.
The family's racing operation got a financial boost in 1982 when Michigan-based businessman, Harry Melling, gave Bill his chance at racing immortality. Melling provided the funding needed to keep Elliott racing. That following year, Elliott began his first full season on the circuit. On November 20, 1983, he found victory lane at Riverside International Raceway in his 117th Winston Cup race
An accelerating career
As the years sped past, Bill Elliott could usually be found in victory lane. In 1985, he won 11 races and 11 poles on his way to winning the first Winston Million in NASCAR history, bring a new fame to himself and the sport of auto racing.. His victories in the Daytona 500, the Winston 500 at Talladega and the Southern 500 at Darlington earned him the million-dollar bonus and the nickname, "Million Dollar Bill." Elliott's "fuel-injected" success also landed him on the cover of Sports Illustrated as the first Winston Cup driver to appear on the cover. Additional glory followed and in 1988, with six wins, six poles, 11 top-five and 22 top-10 finishes in 29 races, Elliott earned NASCAR's Winston Cup championship.
Elliott ended his relationship with Melling in 1991 and in 1992 began his association with Junior Johnson. The season ended in dramatic fashion as Elliott narrowly missed his second Winston Cup championship, winning the race, but failing to lead the most laps. Alan Kulwicki won by 10 points, the smallest margin of victory in the final standings in NASCAR's history.
Racing toward victory in the new millennium
In 1995, Bill Elliott began his own team and assumed sole ownership a year later. In 2000, he celebrated his 25th anniversary in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. He made another high-profile move in 2001 when he joined Ray Evernham and Dodge as the lead driver of their organization. The team would herald in a new era for Dodge as the manufacturer made its return to the track after more than 20 years.
Elliott proved he still had the moves of a champion when he captured the pole at one of the circuit's most famous races: the Daytona 500. He made history once again in his No. 9 Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T when he won the pole and the race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 11, 2001. It was the first victory for Elliott since September 4, 1994.
Elliott continued to make his fans proud throughout his exhilarating career. His 2001 standings were his best overall since 1994 with one win, two poles, five top-fives, nine top-10s and a 15th place finish in the points. In the 2002 season, he won four poles, finished four times in the top-five, 11 times in the top-10 and captured the checkered flag twice in a row: once at the Pennsylvania 500 and again at the Brickyard 400. By November 9, 2003 he had achieved his fourth win for Evernham Motorsports at Rockingham, moving up from a start in the rear of the field and leading 140 of 393 laps. During that season, he also finished in the top-five nine times and had 12 top-10 finishes. Moreover, Elliott has achieved amazing popularity, winning the NMPA's "Most Popular Driver" Award a record 16 times, eventually retiring his name from the contest in 2003.
Three decades of racing
During the 2005 and 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup seasons, Bill Elliott raced a reduced driving schedule as he prepared to retire. During this new stage in his career, Elliott's first thoughts are for his fans, answering their disappointment by reflecting, "The way I look at it, there's got to be a time when you've got to step back.. We don't live forever. We don't drive forever. We don't do a lot of things forever. It would be nice to do it, but I feel like this is an opportunity for the fans where I can still run some events." During his less rigorous racing schedule, he has devoted more time to showing appreciation for his devoted supporters, scheduling various fan events.
During his less rigorous racing schedule Elliott is able to devote more time to showing appreciation for his devoted supporters as well as spending time with his family. In 2006, Elliott's book, "Awesome Bill from Dawsonville" was published by Harper Entertainment.
In 2007 Elliott’s passion for NASCAR and the world of racing continued to bring him back to the track. Elliott signed with Woods Brothers Racing and participated in several races, helping to move the team up into the top-35. Still holding off on retirement, Elliott continued to participate in 2008, qualifying for ten races.
Although Bill plans to retire from racing in the Cup series after this year, 2008, he is far from finished with the sport that has given him so much. He is sure to be seen on occasion in front of your grass-roots audiences that provide that NASCAR Home-Track appeal or behind the scenes helping an up and coming racer.
About the Bill Elliott Driver Development Program NASCAR legend Bill Elliott created the Bill Elliott Driver Development (BEDD) program as a means to pay forward the years of support, guidance and hard work from family, friends and fans that catapulted him to stardom in NASCAR’s top series. Based on the principles of teamwork, strong work ethic and positive attitudes, the program aims to guide young drivers through the highs and lows of life in auto racing. As a mentor to the young drivers, Elliott hopes to groom them into leaders on and off the track; to develop their media skills and allow them to be comfortable in various public situations; to cultivate feedback and communication skills to help them become productive team members; and to provide seat time in various types of racing equipment to develop their driving skills. The BEDD team, which operates out of the Bill Elliott Racing shop in Dawsonville, GA, includes Chase Elliott, Casey Roderick, Mitch Cobb, Trey Poole and John King. Please visit www.BillElliott.com for more information on the Bill Elliott Driver Development program.
Since 1976, Elliott has participated in close to 750 races, achieved 44 wins, collected 55 career poles and amassed winnings of some $73 million. With all of his incredible success, he still remains humble, stating, "We are all motivated by certain things. Of course, winning is one of them, but for me, the fans have always been the biggest motivational factor. I've said this over and over-our fans are the backbone of this sport and they are the reason we are able to do what we do."
Bill Elliott's devotion to both his sport and his supporters equals his talent, making him a legend with both his team and his fans.