DARLINGTON, S.C., (September 2, 2001) - When it comes to conquering the "track that's too tough to tame," Bill Elliott knows it can be done - and he's got the stats to prove it. Elliott's success at the track leads all active drivers in ...
DARLINGTON, S.C., (September 2, 2001) - When it comes to conquering the "track that's too tough to tame," Bill Elliott knows it can be done - and he's got the stats to prove it.
Elliott's success at the track leads all active drivers in poles, wins (tied with Jeff Gordon), top fives, top 10s and laps led. But the No. 9 Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T is just beginning to get its tires warmed up at the track. Elliott fought for a top 20 finish at Darlington earlier this year after sustaining damage to his car in a late-race incident.
This weekend at the Mountain Dew Southern 500, Elliott will return to the track where he smoked the competition to earn the inaugural Winston Million bonus in 1985, and took his first career pole position in 1981. With a new car and new team, Elliott and the No. 9 crew are poised to make another breakthrough performance at the historic raceway.
Bill Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T
You tested at Darlington. Did you learn anything new? "You always learn something new when you test. We tried a bunch of different set ups. We'll see what we've got when get on the track Friday. We've got a couple of things we're ready to try. We'll still have some work to do, but hopefully not as much as the other guys now. We'll see. I know Darlington can be tough, but I've been around this track a few times and that always helps."
You've had a lot of success at Darlington. Is there any one memory that stands out?
"I think winning the Winston Million in '85 was pretty special. It was the first year for it, so it was a big deal. We won at Daytona and Talladega but then lost to Darrell at Charlotte, so there was a little bit of pressure once we got to Darlington. We fought hard to win it. It was kind of a big deal because it was the Southern 500 and that was a lot of money back then. It still is, but especially back then."
What's the key to success here?
"I don't know if there's one key here. Tire wear is always big and just getting around the track. This track can be challenging. You have to have a car that handles. It's not necessarily about horsepower. I like this track and I know Ray does too. We're hoping for a good run."
*Darlington is one of Bill Elliott's best-raced tracks. In his 46 appearances at the track Elliott leads all active drivers with five Bud Poles and is tied with Jeff Gordon for the most victories (five) among active drivers. He also leads active drivers in top fives (19), top 10s (30) and laps led (937). His 9.2 average finish at Darlington is tops among all active drivers and is his personal best among all the tracks he has competed on. In Darlington's first race this year, Elliott started 7th and finished 23rd.
*Winning the inaugural Winston Million at Darlington's 1985 Southern 500 is probably Elliott's most memorable victory at any track. Elliott's first pole position of his career came at Darlington on April 10, 1981. Elliott's last win also came at Darlington in 1994, driving for Junior Johnson.
*This will be Elliott's 648th start in a NASCAR Winston Cup points event. If he makes every race, his 650th start will be when he returns to New Hampshire International Speedway for the New Hampshire 300 on September 16th.
*Elliott has run 29 straight races without a DNF.
*Last week at Bristol, Elliott fought through 16 cautions to improve his 35th place start to a 19th place finish despite suffering body damage in a late race incident. The top 20 finish moved Elliott up one spot into the top 15 in the points standings. His average start for the year is 14th and his average finish is 18th.
*Elliott and the No. 9 team have earned seven top 10 finishes for the year, including three in their last five races (fourth at Pocono, eighth at Indianapolis and third at Michigan). With 12 races to go, Elliott has already matched last year's season total of seven top 10s. The last time Elliott earned more than seven top 10s in a single season was in 1997 when he earned 13 top 10s.
*With $2,247,490 in official earnings, Elliott is second in total winnings for all Dodge drivers this year (behind Sterling Marlin). After finishing eighth at Indy, Elliott became the first Dodge driver in history to break the $2 million earnings mark in a single season.