There is no driver more popular in the sport of NASCAR Winston Cup racing than Bill Elliott.
For the last eight years in a row Elliott has been voted the sport's Most Popular Driver, an honor he has now gained an unprecedented 13 times in his illustrious career. The 1988 NASCAR Winston Cup champion ranks third on the all-time earnings list with more than $19 million and has 40 career victories to his credit.
Unfortunately, two of the last three years have been hampered by injuries and resulted in finishes outside the top 10 of the final point standings. After suffering a broken leg in an accident during the Winston 500 at Talladega in 1996, Elliott rebounded to finish eighth in the point standings one year later. He appeared ready to put it all together in 1998 and after the first eight races Elliott was the only driver who had finished in the top 15 of every event. That streak, however, came to a sudden end when he was involved in a major accident in the DieHard 500 at Talladega in April. He returned to action the following week at California with a bruised sternum, but endured more hardship when he was caught up in another accident that weekend.
The on-track results showed a 39th and 43rd-place finish in those two respective events and halted all of the momentum which had been built during the first quarter of the season. From that point on, Elliott managed a sixth-place finish in the first Michigan race and a seventh-place showing late in the year at Martinsville. He ended up with five top 10s overall in '98 and finished 18th in the final standings, despite missing one race to attend his father's funeral.
Nicknamed "Awesome Bill" for setting new standards in the sport in the mid-eighties, Elliott became the first to win the coveted Winston Million as he captured the Daytona 500, Winston 500 and Southern 500 all in 1985. In addition to that milestone, Elliott owns the fastest official time in stock car history after qualifying for the 1987 Winston 500 at Talladega at 212.809 mph. He is a three time NASCAR Winston Cup runner up (1985, '87, '92) and is one of seven drivers to win four consecutive races in the modern era (1972-present) as he achieved that feat in 1992. Besides all of that, he was also named American Driver of the Year in 1985 and '88.
Elliott, who was named one of the 50 greatest drivers in NASCAR history, made his NASCAR Winston Cup debut in 1976, but didn't compete on a full-time basis until 1983 with car owner Harry Melling. That combination proved to be one of the most successful of the decade as Elliott won his first career race, the Western 500 at Riverside. He won three times in '84 and then had one of the best single seasons in the sport's history with 11 victories in '85 and nearly $2.5 million in earnings. Luck, however, wasn't with him at the end as he finished second in the final point standings to Darrell Waltrip by 101 points.
After 10 seasons with Melling, Elliott moved on to drive for the legendary Junior Johnson and won six times in their three years together. Since 1995 he has been an owner/driver and is still looking for his first victory in that role. Elliott's last win came with Johnson in the 1994 Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington.
In addition to the challenges presented with owning his own team, he has branched out into the multi-car ranks. Last season he teamed with Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino as co-owners on a second car, which is also based at Elliott's team headquarters in Statesville, N.C.