Brooklyn, Mich. – Bill Elliott earned his ninth NASCAR victory in 18 tries Sunday, although the Dawsonville, GA., native accomplished something that has eluded him all season.
The 29-year-old Elliott started from the pole position, survived early problems and cruised to the NASCAR – Champion Spark Plug 400 Championship with a 4.9 second victory over Darrell Waltrip
Elliott also earned $10,000 by capturing his first Barclay’s American Run for the Money, awarded to the driver leading at the races halfway point.
It was the first Run for the Money title for Elliott this season, despite his string of race victories.
“Something’s always happened,” Elliott said. “We’ve had to pit or had some sort of trouble every time.”
The battle for the Run for the Money provided the large crowd with the best racing of the afternoon as Elliott hooked up with Waltrip and Cale Yarborough.
Waltrip led most of the first half of the race but yielded to Elliott on the 100th lap. Elliott shot inside Waltrip and Yarborough in the first turn and took the lead in the second turn holding both off as the crowd roared its approval.
Elliott is a crowd favorite at MIS because Harry Melling, a sponsor and owner of the Coors Ford Thunderbird is from Jackson, a few miles north of the speedway.
It was the third victory in the last four tries for Elliott who also won the Miller High Life 400 in June.
Elliott had some trouble early in the race and was fortunate to be in position to grab the Run for the Money bonus. Coming out of the fourth turn on the second lap, Elliott found himself squeezed by Ricky Rudd, Geoff Bodine and Neil Bonnett.
“I must have got hit five different times”, said Elliott, who was forced to make a pit stop for repairs. “I was more scared for the people in front of me. Everything happened so quickly that there was a lot of confusion.”
When Elliott returned to the race, he found himself 28th. But by the 52nd lap, he was back in first place.
Four laps later, he made a pit stop and had to go two laps later to repair a tire
Elliott overtook Waltrip on Lap 151 and pulled away for his 11th victory in the last 22 starts. He averaged 137.430 mph as five caution flags for a total of 28 laps that slowed the field.
The triumph, worth a total of $57,600, also enabled Elliott to increase his lead over Waltrip in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings. Elliott has 2841 points for the first place while Waltrip is second with 2693.
Dale Earnhardt, Bobby Allison and Bobby Hillin Jr. each suffered severe car damage on Lap 85. Rudd’s car was smoking and Hillin pulled in front of Earnhardt, causing an accident and Allison also became involved in the crash.
Allison was forced from the race but Hillin and Earnhardt were able to continue, despite a hood.
(Article by Associated Press & Citizen Times)