Awesome Weekend for 'Awesome Bill'
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on January 12, 2014 | 3:05 P.M. EST
Bill Elliott tested Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Nationwide car Saturday and Sunday at Daytona International Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The smile creased his face and never strayed. Former champion Bill Elliott couldn’t hide his excitement after exiting the car for the final time Sunday.
After former champion Rusty Wallace ran some laps Friday during Sprint Cup testing at Daytona International Speedway, Elliott continued the retro theme by driving Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Nationwide car Saturday and Sunday.
As an added benefit, the 1988 former champion shared the track with son Chase Elliott, who joins JR Motorsports this season.
“I had a lot of fun,’’ said Bill Elliott, who drove 144 laps in two days with a top lap of 189.885 mph in a draft. “The car drives good. I think Dale will have a good car when he comes back down here. I’m just honored to have the opportunity to do it.’’
It was just as special for Elliott to run in the draft with Chase both days.
“At least when he asks me a question, I’m not totally stupid on the answer,’’ Elliott said laughing.
Said Chase: “He was showing me a thing or two. There’s a reason he’s had so much success here. He definitely understands the air and what it takes to manipulate it.’’
This time Elliott was the teacher. Elliott admits he’s been the student to Chase at times.
“I ran with him a few months ago at a little ol’ racetrack down in South Alabama,’’ Elliott said. “There were about 30 laps to go and I was beating his back bumper off and the next thing I knew I couldn’t see him, he was gone. When it comes time to go, he figures it out.
“(But) he’s got a learning curve (at Daytona). He understands that.’’
Elliott liked what he saw from his son when they ran together.
“He took to it very well,” Elliott said. “I don’t see really anything that he did wrong or anything that he needs to do much differently, just to expect different things when the race comes about. I said you’re going to start out the race they’re going to be two feet apart. When it gets down to the end of the race, they’re going to be occupying the same space or that’s what they’re going to be trying to do.’’
For as much advice as Elliott can give his son, he might be able to show him a few things later this season. This might not be Elliott’s final time in a NASCAR ride.
Ryan Pemberton, director of competition at JR Motorsports and crew chief for Regan Smith, would be for running Elliott in a race.
“As well as he did and so much fun he had and as much fun as we all had, maybe we try to put something together,’’ Pemberton said. “Maybe we can get him to run Talladega and run with Chase. I think that would be a pretty cool deal.’’
Elliott admits he would be open to that.
For now, he enjoyed running with Chase. Other drivers also enjoyed being on the track with Elliott.
“Isn’t it awesome?’’ Elliott Sadler said. “Isn’t that great? I looked up to him growing up. He was always good to me any time I asked him questions. I can only imagine being able to be here at Daytona, my son’s first time, testing with him, sharing information. Chase is a bright, bright star in this sport, and I think it’s neat that Bill is able to be here and kind of help him with that transition.’’
Ty Dillon just enjoyed being in the garage with Elliott.
“To see him come by me on pit road is pretty cool,’’ Dillon said.
They understand what Elliott has meant to the sport, winning a title and 44 races. The broadcast of his famous 1985 win at Talladega Superspeedway - when he came from two laps down - was replayed Sunday morning on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.
Soon, Elliott could enjoy another significant moment.
A new rule makes Elliott immediately eligible for consideration to the NASCAR Hall of Fame instead of needing to wait two more years. He would seem to be among the favorites to be a part of the 2015 Class.
“When I walk in (Hall of Fame) and look at the people, it would be an honor to be among those people,’’ Elliott said should he among the 20 nominees determined Feb. 21. “I enjoyed my career, I’ve enjoyed what we worked through, what our family has worked through, what we did as a little group down in Dawsonville, Ga.
“We turned this sport upside down at the time we came into it. I think that means more to me than anything in the world. If by some chance we get nominated into the Hall of Fame, it’s a group effort. It’s not Bill Elliott. It’s Ernie, Dan, mother, dad, all the people that were instrumental in bringing this deal together and the people that sacrificed what they sacrificed to get me where I’m at.’’
Saturday and Sunday that was a chance to run with his son at one of the sport’s famous tracks.