DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 12, 2003) -- Call it "Milestone Weekend". And what more appropriate place is there than storied Darlington Raceway for milestones? In addition to Sunday's Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 being the track's 100th NASCAR...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 12, 2003) -- Call it "Milestone Weekend".
And what more appropriate place is there than storied Darlington Raceway for milestones? In addition to Sunday's Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 being the track's 100th NASCAR Winston Cup Series race, Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford) and Bill Elliott (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) -- both former NASCAR Winston Cup champions -- are set to reach career milestones.
For Jarrett, Sunday's race will mark his 500th career NASCAR Winston Cup start; for Elliott, it will be his 700th career start. History is set to be made, at a place that personifies history. Darlington Raceway (in Darlington, S.C.) opened in 1950 with the inaugural running of the Southern 500, NASCAR's first "major" event.
"It's hard to believe it's been 500 races [for me]," said Jarrett, the 1999 series titlist. "A lot of them I can remember and a lot of them I can forget, too. Darlington is a pretty special place for that.
"There are a lot of things that have taken place there, whether it was my career or my dad's (former NASCAR Winston Cup champion Ned Jarrett) career. I remember being there when he won the Southern 500 and basically clinched the championship in 1965, but, aside from that, I've been very fortunate as a driver to do well there."
Jarrett has three victories at Darlington. He's been close to many more victories there, having posted 11 top-five finishes and 13 top 10s. His first victory at Darlington came in the 1997 March event.
'When you look at the names that have done well there and know that you can put yourself in that group of people that have won races there, it is pretty special," Jarrett said.
For Elliott, Darlington likewise has good memories. In 1985 he won the Southern 500 to capture "The Winston Million", a special $1 million bonus from series sponsor R.J. Reynolds, given to a driver who won at least three of the designated "Big Four" events. Earlier that year, Elliott already had won the Daytona 500 and the Winston 500 (at Talladega). (The Coca-Cola 600 was the other race in the "Big Four".)
"I feel very fortunate to be where I am today," said Elliott, the 1988 series champion. "I've seen a lot of things throughout my career and I've won a few races along the way.
"I'm not real big on making a lot out of things like this. I guess when you sit back and think about it though, [700 starts] is something to hang your hat on. I've had a good career. I really can't complain. I was saying the other day that if it all ended now, I'd be happy with what I've accomplished over the years."