Bill Elliott has a special relationship with Michigan International Speedway. It began in June 1984 and was still going strong after the conclusion of the June 25 Miller High Life 400.
Elliott, driver of the Coors Ford, won the race by 2.09-seconds over Rusty Wallace and thus earned his seventh career win on the two-mile track, dating back to 1984. For the third time in six years, the Miller High Life 400 ended a season victory drought for Elliott, who came into the event without a victory in 1989. A similar situation occurred in 1984 and again in 1986.
Elliott had been bombarded by problems from the season’s start. He broke his left wrist in a practice crash prior to the Daytona 500 in February. His injury sharply curtailed his team’s testing program with the new Ford and when the wrist finally healed, Elliott found himself behind the other Ford drivers in progress.
The 33-year-old Elliott didn’t post a top-10 finish until the March 26 Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond, Va. He didn’t crack the top five until the May 28 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, N.C.
“You need to be competitive week in and week out,” said Elliott. “We haven’t been that until the last couple of weeks. We were good at Pocono (Pa.) and Dover (Del.), and reasonable at Charlotte. Before that, we were just making laps.”
Elliott ran well at the first of the race, but Rusty Wallace’s Kodiak Pontiac was clearly dominant. Wallace led three times for 131 laps and at one point he had built up a 7.3-second advantage over Elliott. However, three caution flags in the final 65 laps kept Wallace from establishing such dominance again.
Wallace’s luck began to sour during the fourth caution period that began on lap 171 of the 200-lap race. On his pit stop, he received a mis-staggered set of tires. He wanted another caution period, but it never came.
Thus, Elliott grabbed the lead with 20 laps left and was able to pull away. But he was able to enjoy it for only seven laps. At that point, the final caution appeared after Jimmy Means smacked the wall in the second turn.
Both drivers pitted and the stops made the difference. Elliott took on four tires and gas in 22.25 seconds while Wallace received the same treatment in 28.4
When the race restarted with 10 laps remaining, Darrell Waltrip was the leader. Elliott was fourth; Wallace eighth. On lap 193, Elliott dove low around Waltrip to take the lead for good. Wallace played catchup, but fell short.
Elliott earned $71,450 for his victory. Behind Wallace in third place was Waltrip, driver of the Tide Chevrolet, while Ricky Rudd was fourth in the Quaker State Buick. Fifth place went to Brett Bodine in the Motorcraft Ford.
-Winston Cup Illustrated (February 1990)