By 1988, the most famous resident of Dawsonville, Georgia had done a lot of things inside of a NASCAR Cup Series car. He had claimed two Daytona 500 titles, the prestigious Winston all-star race and taken home the Winston million-dollar prize with wins in three of the four major NASCAR Cup races.
A championship eluded William Clyde ‘Bill’ Elliott, however, as did a short track victory.
On April 10, 1988 at Bristol Motor Speedway, a run towards the ultimate prize in NASCAR began for the driver of the No. 9 Coors Ford Thunderbird with Elliott’s Valleydale 500 victory — his first on a short oval.
Elliott returned to the scene of the first of six victories en route to his only Cup championship during a special media event Wednesday, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the day he got over the short-track hump.
“This brings back a lot of good memories,” said Elliott, who was voted NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver a record 16 times during his career. “I always enjoyed this place. It eluded me in a lot of ways, but I always enjoyed running here. The fans were so gracious.”
Prior to speaking with the media, Elliott watched highlights of his run on the televisions posted inside of Bristol’s infield media center. It brought back a flood of memories.
“It was a great day,” he said. “A great deal for us. We had some good times here and that was kind of the icing on the cake.”
Elliott, who began the race from the 13th starting position, took the lead on Lap 379 and led for 113 laps until Lap 491 when he took a 360 spin into turn three thanks to a nudge from second place Geoff Bodine. After collecting fresh tires on the pit stop, Elliott battled on the first lap after the caution then repaid Bodine with a bump and run on Lap 498. He won by two car lengths over Mark Martin.