Georgia's Native Son Bill Elliott Celebrates 30 Years of Racing at His Home Track: Will Run Commemorative Paint Scheme to Mark Milestone
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
When Bill Elliott takes the green flag for the October 29 Bass Pro Shops 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, he will reach a milestone and further etch his name in the AMS record books. Elliott will make his 58th career start at AMS, a stretch that started 30 years ago.
In recognition of the accomplishment, Team Red Bull has designed a retro paint scheme for Elliott to run in the Bass Pro Shops 500, complete with the No. 30 to mark his three-decade career at AMS. The paint scheme is designed after the Dahlonega Ford Sales sponsored car Elliott drove in his first start at AMS in 1976.
That very No. 9 powder blue Ford Torino Elliott drove in his inaugural start will return to the high-banks of AMS when it makes a circuit during the parade lap before the start of the Bass Pro Shops 500.
"It has been a heck of a roller coaster ride," Elliott said of his rise to the top in NASCAR's elite division. "For a guy from a little town in Georgia, to see what I've seen and been able to do what I have done, I have been more fortunate than I could have ever imagined."
Elliott finished 36th that day in 1976. A broken drive shaft forced him to retire early from the event after just 21 laps. Elliott's paycheck for completing the 31 and one-half miles was $950.
Elliott's misfortune in his inaugural start at Atlanta was not a forecast of what was to come for the Dawsonville, Ga. native, who boasts one of the best records at AMS.
With five victories, five poles, more than $2 million in earnings and 20 top-10 finishes, Bill Elliott has amassed a record at one track that most drivers strive to compile in a career.
Through all of his success, Elliott remains humble and knows he owes a large part of his success to NASCAR and his fans.
"NASCAR has done a good job of keeping its stuff together over the years and taking the sport where it is today," Elliott said. "NASCAR is built around fans and with our fans being as loyal as they are, it's no wonder we are seeing this success."
Elliott, who has been voted "Most Popular Driver" by the fans an astounding 16 times, calls Atlanta his home track and admits he gets especially excited about coming to the 1.54-mile quad-oval to race.
"I always get excited to race at my home track," Elliott admits. "The fans are so great there and the racing is always exciting. It is a great race track."
While Atlanta has always provided fans with exciting racing and close finishes, some call the Hooters 500 on November 15, 1992 the greatest race in NASCAR history, with Elliott winning and Alan Kulwicki claiming the Cup Series Championship that day by just 10 points, the second-closest margin in NEXTEL Cup history.
"Both races at Atlanta in 1992 hold a special place in my heart," Elliott noted. "In the spring race, we had a 20th-place car and ended up winning the thing. We should have backed into victory lane because we backed into winning that race.
"When we came back in the fall, we dominated that race. It was a complete turn around. That is one of my fondest Atlanta memories," Elliott added.
Elliott has also enjoyed watching the Atlanta Motor Speedway transform from a track with an infield made of mud to a multi-million dollar facility with enormous grandstands and state-of-the-art infield facilities.
"Bruton Smith and Ed Clark have done a tremendous job of taking that facility to the level it is today," Elliott said. "They are always doing something down there to make that place more fan-friendly.
"I remember when I used to leave that track, I would always watch people in their four-wheel drives out there muddin' through the infield. That was a sight," Elliott remembered.
The 1988 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion will be making his 58th Cup Series start, including his victory in The Winston in 1986, at AMS this October 29 in the Bass Pro Shops 500. In doing so, Elliott will be just a few miles away from eclipsing the 25,000-race mile mark at just AMS.
"Man, that's a lot of miles," Elliott said of the feat. "Now, that's a cool stat."
To catch Bill Elliott race at his home track, fans can contact the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (877) 9-AMS-TIX, (770) 946-4211, or visit an authorized Ticketmaster retail outlet for more information on the Bass Pro Shops 500 NEXTEL Cup race weekend.