In October of 1980, George entered Bill in the NAPA 500, in which a promoter paired a winner (Benny Parsons) with a non-winner (Bill) to be averaged together and compared to other pairs' finishes for a grand prize. Parsons had sponsorship from Melling Tool Company, and he talked Melling into giving the Elliott's $500 for the Charlotte race. As for the race, Parsons wrecked and placed 33rd, while Bill ran a great race and finished 6th. Not bad, but not enough to win the race, and that seemed to be their last chance.
Melling did not offer more money to the Elliotts, but they left his name on their car because they thought the next race would be their last. It was at the Atlanta International Raceway, where he had placed 29th the previous year. But this time, Bill qualified second, the first time he had ever started in the front row. He finished 18th because of an early problem with the clutch, but his impressive qualifying was enough to get him the attention - and money - he needed. Just as the Elliotts were packing to head home for good, word came from Melling that he would back the team for up to $35,000 the following season, in up to 12 races. The Elliotts were getting another chance, and they proved just how well deserved it was in their second race of 1981. Bill won the first pole of his career with a 32-second (153.896 mph) lap, making news in eastern South Carolina. However, for the rest of the season, Bill's finishes were hit-and-miss.
Benny Parsons, Bill's mentor in the late 1970s, decided to quit full-time racing that year, and recommended to Harry Melling that he consider sponsoring the Elliotts. After a suggestion from friends, the Elliotts flew up to Michigan and had a discussion with Melling. Bill said, "Ernie did all the talking. I just sat there with my mouth hanging open." After Ernie's convincing argument, Melling decided to take it a step further and turn the family team into Melling Racing. They had a good relationship, with Melling running the business end from Michigan and the Elliotts doing their part in Dawsonville. Bill ran a successful season and began to gain more confidence. The team, with Ernie as crew chief, won the season-long Ingersoll-Rand crew competition, beating out other champion teams. The Elliotts continued their success in 1983. Bill won his first career victory in Riverside, California when the two leaders crashed into each other. Remembering that day, Bill said, "It was just a situation, Darrell and Tim Richmond probably had the best cars there, they ended up taking each other out there in turn nine. That left Benny (Parsons) and myself, and I knew the weather was looking marginal. I made a move on him in turn nine, then it started raining."