Bill Elliott made the most of the start of the second half of the 1988 NASCAR Winston Cup season by picking up right where he left off in the first half – with a victory.
In his Melling/Coors Ford Thunderbird, Elliott breezed to an 8.27-second victory over Ken Schrader in the Hendrick/Folgers Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS to win the July 24 AC Spark Plug 500 at Pocono (Pa.) International Raceway.
It was the second win for Elliott in as many races. He closed the first half of the season with an ever-so-close, dramatic victory over Rick Wilson in the July 4 Pepsi Firecracker 400 at Daytona Beach, Fla. With the Pocono triumph, Elliott earned his fourth victory of the season, more than any other competitor.
Unlike Daytona, this one was easy for Elliott. He led six times for 122 of the race’s 200 laps on the 2.5-mile triangular track. At one point midway in the race, Elliott chose not to race to a caution flag and the supposition was that had he done so, he could have easily lapped the field by the end of the event.
“The car handled so well all of the time,” said Elliott, who collected his 27th career victory. “It was super on horsepower, but the engine was there at the end. The sun coming in and out all day seemed to hurt other cars but it didn’t seem to make a difference to mine.”
The victory boosted Elliott into second place in the Winston Cup point standings, a mere three points behind leader Rusty Wallace. Wallace, driver of the Blue Max/Kodiak Pontiac Grand Prix SE, spent many laps in the garage area receiving repairs to a broken transmission soon after the race started. He ultimately finished 24th, 11 laps off the pace.
Except for a brief time during the middle of the race when his car experienced a push, Elliott had things his way. He wasn’t in the lead from laps 94-127, but during the fifth caution period on laps 128-130, he changed all four tires, took the lead and was never seriously challenged thereafter. He lost the lead only briefly during a series of late-race, green-flag pit stops. He gave up his lead to Schrader on lap 179 when he stopped for 9.45 seconds to take on fuel.
Then, with five laps remaining, leader Darrell Waltrip had to pit for fuel and Elliott was home free.
“This sorta reminds me of Dale Earnhardt and how he won several of the races he did last year,” said Elliott. “I think the team and I have matured since our big year of 1985, but there are a lot of more good teams around now than there were then.”
Maybe, but none of them were a match for Elliott and crew on this day.
-Grand National Illustrated (January 1989)