Auto Racing: Pain From a Broken Leg Doesn’t Slow Elliott

HAMPTON, Ga. — Neither the pain from Bill Elliott’s recently broken leg nor anyone else in the field could keep him from winning Sunday’s Coca-Cola 500 Grand National stock car race.

“The leg bothered me from 150 laps on,” Elliott said. “I couldn’t hardly keep it up and it was real hard to mash the brake and the clutch. But I just hung on.”

Elliott’s Ford Thunderbird inherited the lead 54 laps from the end of the 328-lap race at Atlanta International Raceway when the engine in Cale Yarborough’s Ford blew.

Yarborough, who took control of the race from Elliott as the latter’s injury became more painful, said, “We had them covered when the engine went away.

“I was counting laps down, but I felt something in the motor, I thought, so I let off a little bit and then stood on it again–just in case it was my imagination when I was so far ahead,” Yarborough said. “Well, it wasn’t my imagination.”

Elliott, who was at or near the front all day, led five times for a total of 130 laps, while Yarborough led four times for 110 laps.

Geoff Bodine, who was second in a Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, was hampered in the second half of the race by a skip in the engine that kept him from challenging either Yarborough or Elliott.

“That just shows you how strong the car was, finishing second with a skipping engine,” Bodine said.

Elliott, who had Jody Ridley standing by all day for possible relief, stayed in the car and crossed the finish line 2.64 seconds ahead of Bodine.

Neil Bonnett, who regained a lost lap late in the race, was third–the only other car on the lead lap at the end. Ricky Rudd’s Ford was a lap down in fourth, followed by Bobby Allison’s Buick Regal. Darrell Waltrip was running third when his car’s engine blew on the 315th lap.

Elliott, who suffered a broken bone in his lower left leg two weeks ago in a crash at Rockingham, N.C., told his crew the pain became worse as the race progressed. He fell behind Yarborough after a series of caution flags at midrace, but regained control when Yarborough’s car retired.

He added Sunday’s victory, the sixth of his career, to a season-opening triumph in the Daytona 500. It was a morale-booster for Elliott, who had crashed in each of the two events between his victories.

(Article courtesy of Times Wire Services, 3/18/1985)

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