600Th Start For NASCAR Veteran Bill Elliott
April 13, 2000 | 12:00 A.M. EST
When Elliott takes the green flag to begin the DieHard 500 at Talladega Superspeedway he will become just the 12th driver in NASCAR history to start 600 or more races.
Elliott, 45, is also only one of six active drivers to reach the mark, alongside Dave Marcis (869), Darrel Waltrip (788), Ricky Rudd (669), Dale Earnhardt (649), and Terry Labonte (649).
According to Elliott, it is more a testament as to his age than an achievment.
"To me it’s just a number," he said. "Whether it’s six, 60 or 600, it’s just hard to believe it’s been that many from my standpoint. That’s a lot of races. In the early days I didn’t run many races, maybe eight to 10 a year for a long time because I couldn’t afford to run any more."
Elliott’s Winston Cup career began in 1976 with a car that he fondly remembers as a "piece of junk."
"Inspectors wouldn't even come around the thing because they thought they'd pick up some kind of homemade poison or something," Elliott said. "I know you had to have your tetanus shot to work on it."
Although Elliott’s best season was 1985, when he won 11 races -- including the Daytona 500 and 11 poles -- it wasn’t until 1988 he won the Winston Cup Series Championship. Elliott has won the NASCAR Most Popular Driver Award 14 times in his 24 years of racing.
With 40 career wins, Elliott is also approaching another NASCAR milestone, as he may become one of only 10 other drivers with 50 or more career wins. If Elliott does break into that exclusive group of drivers, he will do it in a new Dodge Intrepid under the guidance of Ray Evernham.
Elliott's crowning achievement is his record 212.809 mph speed he hit during qualifying for the 1987 Winston 500 at the famed 2.66 mile oval Talladega Superspeedway.
"I guess what impresses me the most in looking back on all that is if you go back and look at the cars we did that in versus what we've got today, they were pretty primitive," he said. "I mean, you didn't have time to go to the wind tunnel with every car and you didn't have all this other stuff. You had bias ply tires and everything else, but it's a whole different ballgame today. You didn't have the technology you've got now shockwise or enginewise."