Darlington II: Bill Elliott preview

WHAT'S GOING TO BE THE BIG SECRET AT DARLINGTON? "I think it's going to be like the last 15 or 20 races - track position and survival. I think tire management, fuel mileage and track position and hopefully we'll qualify well enough to be ...

WHAT'S GOING TO BE THE BIG SECRET AT DARLINGTON?

"I think it's going to be like the last 15 or 20 races - track position and survival. I think tire management, fuel mileage and track position and hopefully we'll qualify well enough to be in position to do some good. That to me is going to be the key."

COMMENT ON DARLINGTON AS A LABOR DAY TRADITION

"That's about like eating hot dogs and apple pie, I think. I think that's the way people know it to be. Whether they can change or not, I don't know. I guess that will be the test of the sport. That was a surprise even for me when they ended up moving that date. That was a very surprising move."

HOW DIFFERENT WILL DARLINGTON BE IN NOVEMBER?

"Is it ever cool at Darlington? It won't make that much difference. It'll help the driver, there's no doubt about that, but you've got everybody programmed to go over there Labor Day weekend. Whether it can change or not to live with that date, I don't know. That will be a very key question here pretty shortly."

WHAT'S FIRST THING THAT POPS IN YOUR HEAD WHEN SOMEBODY SAYS DARLINGTON?

"Probably winning the Winston Million. It's the first race I won a pole at. I've had a lot of good runs there, a lot of success there. It's been a good racetrack for me. It's changed a lot over the years, but it's been a pretty strong racetrack."

WHAT'S THE FLAVOR OF DARLINGTON?

"It's kind of a mix. To me, as old as the racetrack has gotten, there's not been a great deal of improvement to the racetrack over the years. It's just the same old place. For the changes they've made several years ago, other than the racetrack surface itself being repaved, the place hasn't changed since I've been going there in the 70s."

BEST MOMENT (WINSTON MILLION)/WORST MOMENT AT DARLINGTON

"It was very new. I think once I got through Charlotte and all the stuff that phased me there, I was better able to handle it when I got to Darlington. On the flip side, by that time I think I had everything pretty much in place. I had it in my head what I was going to go through, so on and so forth. Things just kind of unfolded and fell into my favor, but it was just one of them days that luck was on your side. Probably the worst thing, I think in '86 I was leading the race with a handful of laps to go and I ran into the wall on the first turn. I just drove in too deep. I think Richmond ended up winning the race. I think I wound up third. I just drove straight into the wall. I didn't pass go. I didn't collect $200. I just drove straight into the wall. Back then it wasn't for the million."

RACE NOTES

Bill Elliott is scheduled to drive chassis No. 54, which is a new chassis.

STATS & FACTS

CAREER AT DARLINGTON

This weekend will mark Elliott's 51st career start at Darlington. He has five wins {1985ab, 1988b, 1992a, 1994b}, five poles {1981a, 1985ab, 1988b, 1994a}, 21 top-fives and 34 top-10 finishes at the track. Elliott has led 27 races for a total of 980 laps at Darlington.

ALONE UP FRONT

Bill Elliott leads all active drivers with five poles in 50 NASCAR Winston Cup races at Darlington Raceway. Elliott's 21 top-five and 34 top-10 finishes are more than any active driver.

ABOVE AVERAGE

Bill Elliott has an average finish of 9.04 in 50 races at Darlington, the best of all active drivers with more than five starts at the track.

FOUR STRAIGHT

Bill Elliott is the only driver to have posted four straight top-10 finishes at Darlington.

WINSTON CUP POINTS RACE

Following his 16th place run last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, Elliott maintains his 17th place position in the Winston Cup points race. He is 16 points out of the next spot and 22 points out of the top 15.

MOST RECENT RUN AT DARLINGTON

Elliott started the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 in 25th place and benefited from three early cautions. By lap 10, his No. 9 Dodge was in the top-10. The cautions allowed the Dodge Squad to make adjustments for Elliott who was reporting extremely tight handling conditions. Elliott fluctuated within the top-15 for most of the race. A little more than halfway through the race a caution came out while the field was cycling through pit stops. Elliott had not pitted and was one of eleven cars that remained on the lead lap for the remainder of the race. Elliott was as high as seventh in the field after the sun began to emerge from behind the clouds. The clouds rolled back in, causing changing handling conditions for Elliott and most of the field. Elliott battled into the top-10, finishing ninth.

LAST WEEKEND AT BRISTOL

Elliott started last weekend's Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway in 25th place. He opted for four fresh tires throughout the event. His Dodge was handling well when he was caught in one of the record-setting on-track incidents that brought more than 20 cautions throughout the evening. Elliott sustained damage to his front fender after a restart 100 laps into the race. The Dodge Squad looked like a well-oiled machine as they methodically fixed the damage and monitored the handling throughout the next series of pit stops. The team never gave up and neither did Elliott who battled feverishly to get his lap back throughout the evening. He got his chance on lap 332, charging hard to regain his position on the lead lap. Mike Ford kept Elliott on track with pit strategy and on lap 430 the former Winston Cup champion had moved up to the 23rd position. He bumped and banged his way toward the front in the closing laps, ending the night in a hard fought 16th position.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott