Bill Elliott To Make Historic 650th Start On Sunday At New Hampshire LOUDON, N.H., (September 10, 2001) - Bill Elliott, the 1988 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion from Dawsonville, Ga., will make career start No. 650 on Sunday at New Hampshire ...
Bill Elliott To Make Historic 650th Start On Sunday At New Hampshire
LOUDON, N.H., (September 10, 2001) - Bill Elliott, the 1988 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion from Dawsonville, Ga., will make career start No. 650 on Sunday at New Hampshire International Speedway. Among active drivers, only Ricky Rudd (721), Dave Marcis (758) and Terry Labonte (699) have more starts. Elliott made his first NASCAR Winston Cup start at Rockingham on Feb. 29, 1976. He qualified 34th and finished 33rd in that event. Since then, Elliott has won 50 poles, 40 races and more than $26 million. He's currently 13th in the NASCAR Winston Cup Standings in his first year driving for Dodge and car owner Ray Evernham. The 45-year-old veteran is one of only two drivers with no DNFs this season. He's moved from 19th to 13th in the standings in the past seven races since his 21st-place finish at NHIS on July 22, 2001. With 10 races remaining, Elliott has an opportunity to finish in the top 10 in the standings for the first time since 1997. He talks about his 650th career start, racing at NHIS and outlook for the final 10 races.
Bill Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T :
"I never think of how many starts I've had. I never worry about it. I don't dwell on that stuff. I'm just out there doing what I like to do.
"I haven't really found what I need to do to get around the New Hampshire track. It hasn't been very good to me. We didn't run bad there the last race. Unless you're really, really good, it's one of them deals that's really, really tough to pass at New Hampshire. You don't need that much motor there. Motor is a part of it, but handling means as much as anything.
"As far as the team goes, we're learning a lot. We're trying a lot of different stuff. Mike (crew chief Ford) and the guys have worked hard, and I've tried to run hard and do what I need to do from my standpoint, but New Hampshire has been a place that's kind of eluded me. I've run decent there sometimes, and sometimes I've been total junk. I just haven't been able to get going there. I guess it just doesn't fit my driving style.
"I kind of put myself in a box at Richmond last week by starting in the back. I really made the guys work hard, but I'd rather start in the back and go to the front than start in the front and go to the back. If you can't maintain, it's good to start in the front. Track position this day and time is a crucial deal, but if you're decent enough, you can get to the front. It doesn't matter where you start. You can start well and have something happen and be in the back anyway. Sometimes at the start of the race, it's not a negative to be back there. In some cases you can be more patient.
"The guys on the team have worked for it. They have busted their butts, and I think that's what helps drive me every week. They have really worked hard. They deserve more than what we've done, and that keeps me going. I know how much blood, sweat and tears they've put in this deal, and that's the key.
"I feel pretty good, but the guys on the team are the ones that are getting tired. You see it in a lot of people's performance at this time. You tear up several cars in a stretch like this and get behind, it's going to be tough to maintain or catch up. This time of year, money gets tight, people get tired, tempers get short and anything can happen.
"I'm in a different light than I used to be. I don't have to worry about the garbage of running the race team anymore. It's like a load off me. I can get away from it for two or three days, but the guys come back in Monday morning and they're wide open at it again.
"The first race at Dover I was in an accident, and it took us a long time to fix it. The guys worked hard, never gave up and we went back out there and finished the race. That says a lot. If we can fix it and go back out and run that's what we need to do. That's why we've finished every race this season -- that and lots of luck."