Bill Elliott’s Melling/Coors team made the right move at the right time and the result was the second victory of the season for Elliott as he won the June 5 Budweiser 500 NASCAR Winston Cup race at Dover (Del.) Downs International Speedway.
At first, it appeared Elliott would not become the second driver to win two races in the ’88 season. In his Melling/Coors Ford Thunderbird, he lost a lap early in the long, 500-lap race on the one-mile Dover track. But a timely switch from Goodyear to Hoosier tires proved to be the difference. As it has been for most of the ’88 season campaign – which has seen Goodyear’s monopoly on Winston Cup racing broken by Hoosier – the new product proved to be more consistent and durable than the old.
Thus equipped, Elliott made up his lost lap and won by 21 seconds over Morgan Shepherd, who turned in an admirable performance in his first outing as a substitute for the injured Harry Gant in the Skoal Bandit Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS.
Driving the same car which propelled him to victory in the April 10 Valleydale Meats 500 at Bristol, Tenn., Elliott led 202 laps – but he had to come from behind to do it. On lap 224, a left-rear tire equalized and he was forced to pit, losing a lap in the process. Shepherd was in command of the race and running so effectively, Elliott was in danger of losing a second lap just 65 laps after he pitted.
But on lap 288, a caution period began after and accident between Joe Booher and Brett Bodine in the second turn and Elliott managed to hold Shepherd at bay. On the pit stop, Elliott’s crew mounted Hoosiers on his Ford; tires that were borrowed.
“I soon learned that the Goodyears would give up after 35 laps or so,” said Elliott, who now has 24 career Winston Cup wins. “So we got the Hoosiers on the car. I felt they would make the biggest difference.”
They did. On lap 308, Elliott passed then-leader Bobby Allison following a restart after caution and regained his lost lap. Then on lap 340, he moved around Shepherd to take second place behind Allison. Twenty-six laps later, he passed Allison and was in control of the race until the finish.
“I had tried to run as hard as I could all day long but, I still wanted to save tires because I wasn’t sure what they would do,” said the red-haired driver from Dawsonville, Ga. “Still, over the last 150 laps, everything was good, so I rode it out because I knew where everyone else was. I didn’t have any trouble.”
Elliott’s victory made him the fourth Winston Cup driver to earn $7 million in his career, joining Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt and Bobby Allison.
Following Elliott and Shepherd in third place was Rusty Wallace in the Blue Max/Kodiak Pontiac Grand Prix SE. Wallace, on a streak of good finishes which began in Talladega, Ala., in May, closed within 16 points of Winston Cup points leader Dale Earnhardt.
-Grand National Illustrated (January 1989)