Hampton, Ga. – Bill Elliott and his temporary pit crew teamed Sunday to beat Dale Earnhardt in the Atlanta Journal 500 NASCAR stock car race to close out the season
Four of Elliott’s crewman, including his youngest brother Dan, are recuperating from injuries suffered in a pit road accident two weeks ago at Riverside, Calf.
Elliott came into the season-ending race at Atlanta International Raceway with the volunteer crew, led by Joey Knuckles, a veteran crewman let go recently by another NASCAR team.
“I’ve been through a lot of things the last couple of weeks,” Elliott said. “I didn’t know yesterday afternoon what would happen out here today. We just hoped for the best and just kept running all day long.”
Elliott, from nearby Dawsonville, GA., told the big partisan crowd he was dedicating the race victory to Chuck Hill, the most seriously injured of the four crewman. Hill, who had his spleen removed and had a dislocated hip and a fractured leg, still is in the intensive care unit and a Riverside hospital.
Elliott clinched second place in the Winston Cup standings with his sixth victory of the year, while Earnhardt’s second-place finish pushed him over $2 million in earnings for the season.
Earnhardt led the way in 1987 with 11 victories and 21 top-five finishes in 29 starts and joined Elliott as the only drivers to surpass $2 million in a single season. Elliott won $2.3 million in 1985
Ricky Rudd finished third, followed by Bobby Allison and, one lap back, by Allison’s son Davey, the tip rookie driver in NASCAR’s major series the year.
The 23rd victory of Elliott’s career, and his third in the last four starts, came by 10.1 seconds over Earnhardt. The winner’s Ford Thunderbird averaged 139.047 mph, as he earned $74,200.
His final earnings for the 1987 will be more than $1.5 million.
The battle through most of the 328-lap event on the 1.522-mile oval was between Elliott and Earnhardt, the drivers who started from the front row of the 42 car field.
Elliott, starting from the pole for the eighth time this season, led with Earnhardt in hot pursuit until the 33rd lap when both pitted during a caution period.
Several other cars broke into the battle for the top spot at times during the race, but either Elliott or Earnhardt seemed able to take control of the race at will and nobody else led after Earnhardt went ahead on lap 223.
Elliott took the lead for good on lap 247, passing Earnhardt on the low side in turn two and moving away.
Davey Allison dueled for the lead for a while, but got caught in the pits on the final yellow flag on the lap 271. He lost a lap that he never was able to regain.
The race was marred by two multi-car crashes.
The first came on lap 33 when Ed Pimm got sideways in front of the Cale Yarborough in the third turn and ignited an accident. Yarborough hit Pimm and Lake Speed slammed in Yarborough.
(Courtesy of Associated Press and Citizen Times)