CONCORD, N.C. — Bill Elliott’s list of accomplishments can officially be called a Hall of Fame résumé.
Elliott, a two-time Daytona 500 winner and the 1988 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, was elected to the sixth class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame May 21.
It’s all a bit shocking for Elliott, who a few days after the announcement admitted he didn’t give much thought to being voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame prior to voting day.
“I try not to think much about what goes on,” Elliott said. “Being a part of the group that was selected to be nominated for the deal (Hall of Fame), you look through it and you say there are a lot of great guys there and you just try to put it into perspective of kind of where you are at and what your career was all about.
“They’re all important to the sport. For them to call my name is pretty incredible,” Elliott said.
Elliott needs no introduction to NASCAR fans. A 16-time winner of the Most Popular Driver Award, the Dawsonville, Ga., native captured 44 Sprint Cup victories and 55 poles during a career that spanned 37 years from 1976 to 2012. He also holds the record for fastest qualifying lap in NASCAR history at 212.809 mph at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and he won the inaugural Winston Million in 1985.
Before Elliott became “Million Dollar Bill” or “Awesome Bill From Dawsonville,” he was just a kid racing cars owned by his father. He made his first Sprint Cup start in 1976 at what was then known as North Carolina Motor Speedway driving a car owned by his father George Elliott.
“It took a lot of people, a lot of parts and pieces; it took my dad giving up a lot of stuff to buy the parts and pieces that we used to do what we did,” Elliott said. “If you could take that formula and try to do it again today, it would never work.”
Elliott’s big break came in 1982 when Harry Melling purchased the team from Elliott’s father.
“He was such a visionary with what he saw in us. He saw something we didn’t see,” Elliott said of Melling. “He knew we had a good work ethic. He knew that we could do the job. He took a chance on us.”
It took a few years, but Elliott and Melling began to gel and Elliott scored his first Sprint Cup win in the 1983 season finale at California’s Riverside Int’l Raceway. From there, Elliott’s career exploded. The rest, as they say, is history.
According to Elliott none of it would have happened without Melling.
“He (Harry Melling) was really the one that helped us go to the level that we went to and without him we’d have never made it,” Elliott said.
These days “Awesome Bill” has turned his attention to the budding racing career of his son, Chase, who has already earned two victories in the NASCAR Nationwide Series during his rookie season with JR Motorsports.
Elliott joked that his newest nickname is “Chase’s Dad.”
“I think I can help him more outside the car in today’s world then I can really as he gets in the car,” Elliott said. “I’ll give you an example. We were at a short track several years ago and I was saying, ‘well this guy is running this line and that guy is running that line.’ Chase goes out and he makes some laps and he’s really fast and he kind of runs his own line and I just shut up.
“They have their own way of doing things. Sometimes either the way he processes stuff or the way he wants a race car to be may not be the way I see it,” Elliott said. “I like to be way out of the lime light and let him be his person.”
Now Elliott has something else to focus on — preparing for his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Jan. 3, 2015. The sixth class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame includes Elliott, Rex White, Fred Lorenzen, Wendell Scott and Joe Weatherly.
“It has just been an incredible journey,” Elliott said.