STATESVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 15, 2000) -- When McDonald's driver Bill Elliott pulls into North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham for the Feb. 27th Dura Lube/Kmart 400, it will officially mark his 25th year as a driver on the NASCAR Winston Cup ...
STATESVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 15, 2000) -- When McDonald's driver Bill Elliott pulls into North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham for the Feb. 27th Dura Lube/Kmart 400, it will officially mark his 25th year as a driver on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit.
Elliott was a 20 year-old, bushy-haired redhead from Dawsonville, Ga. when he made his first career start in the Carolina 500 - Feb. 29, 1976 - at North Carolina Speedway. He drove a powder blue Ford Grand Torino with only one sponsor - Dahlonega Ford, a dealership in Dahlonega, Ga. that was owned by his late father, George Elliott.
In his maiden race, Elliott qualified 34th, finished 33rd and went home with a $640 check. Though the results weren't by any means notable for Elliott, it was the start of one of the great success stories in NASCAR history.
Since his Rockingham debut and 590 races later, Elliott has reserved his place in history as one of the most successful and popular drivers ever to take a checkered flag.
He won the Winston Cup championship in 1988, and his 40 career victories and 49 career poles rank fifth and second respectively among active drivers. His career prize money has grown from his first check of $640 to more than $21 million. He has also won NASCAR's most popular driver award a record 14 times.
"I didn't have a clue back then that all of this would last as long as it has," said Elliott, owner and driver of the #94 McDonald's Ford Taurus. "I probably never saw it happening because of the way we started and what we had to do to race. But I was lucky in that we had a lot of people who believed in what we did and supported me and the team through it
"And if you asked me back when I started if I thought I could accomplish all of this, the answer would have been no. It's not that I didn't have the confidence in myself and the team, it's just that so many things have to be just right to win in this business. I feel fortunate that I was able to endure the tough times and then take advantage of the good times."
Elliott's rise to the top of the Winston Cup rostrum made a giant leap in the 1985 season when he won a record 11 superspeedway races and the inaugural Winston Million. His 1985 season created a national media blitz, including the cover of Sports Illustrated.
"I continue to love what I am doing and feel good about where we're at," Elliott said. "I'm really looking forward to our 25th season."