Wednesday in NASCAR marked an important day as they would announce the 2015 class for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. One of the drivers included on the list was 1988 Winston Cup Champion Bill Elliott.
“This has been an incredible day,” Elliott commented. “I’m totally speechless over today. I never thought that I’d be in the Hall of Fame, especially starting out as a little red-headed kid in Dawsonville, Georgia.”
Elliott joins Fred Lorenzen, Wendell Scott, Joe Weatherly and Rex White as part of the 2015 class that will be inducted in January.
The driver known as “Awesome Bill” says he was shocked when he heard his name called and says that being inducted is not only important for himself, but for those involved along the way.
“This is for everybody who worked hard on my team throughout the years to put it together and to the fans that supported me throughout the year,” Elliott said. “To get to where we are today and be able to do certain things, I’ve done a lot and I’ve been very blessed with what I’ve done. I’m very blessed to be here and the next couple of months leading up to January will put everything in perspective.”
Elliott added that he was originally just glad to be nominated.
“There’s a lot of people that are in it, and don’t get to know that they’re in it as they’ve passed away,” Elliott continued. “For me, it’s one of those deals that I’ve spent a lot of time in my career from when I started at 17, 18 year old in working at it and doing it my own way. That’s what I’m most proud about. We didn’t come to Charlotte in buy our way into anything. We built it through hard work and dedication in our little shop in Dawsonville, Georgia. We put it together. I think that’s what is more special about this than anything else.”
Elliott is one of the drivers that comes from the hard-nosed era of NASCAR racing where you had to be tough and work hard to be successful.
“Benny Parsons said you had to have a passion for this sport,” Elliott commented. “As much as I loved it some days and as much as I hated it some others, I still had a passion for this sport. I think that’s the biggest key that put everything together.”
Elliott and his group of 12 put together one of the most successful seasons in racing history in 1988 when he won six races and had 15 top-fives and 22 top-10s in the 29 races
“My dad always had an insight on NASCAR in what it meant to him,” Elliott commented. “I think he kind of pushed us and drove us to the point in saying, ‘This is the sport. This is where you need to be at top of racing’. He dabbled in a lot of different stuff – he never drove himself – and I think that, espically the work ethic that he taught us really young, was the total key to being successful over the years.”
Over the course of his 37 years behind the wheel, Elliott has 44 wins, including two Daytona 500s and three Southern 500s, as well as 55 poles. He was also the first driver to win the “Winston Million” when he won the Winston in 1985.
Reflecting back to those days in racing, Elliott says it was tough as there were only 12 people in his group in the shop, including himself.
“We sometimes worked at the shop 24 hours a day, seven days a week and you were sometimes killing yourself to do what we did,” he explained. “Then you were asked to do other stuff and you were pulled in so many different directions.”
Elliott recalled a weekend at Darlington where he was helping the team change an engine, went to the trailer to get something and by the time he got to the trailer, he had forgotten what he had gone to get.
“You had so many distractions, so many people and so many things that you couldn’t focus. It was difficult,” he said. “I have to say that the amount of people that we have around us and the ability for them to take up the slack and do what I couldn’t do, especially with as small a group as we had, and that’s a point that you look at. It’s totally incredible to look at to see what we did and were able to do at that scale.”