Monday, 21 January 2019

Back in the driver’s seat: Bill Elliott to drive again … for one week

Back in the driver’s seat: Bill Elliott to drive again … for one week
24 Aug

Bill Elliott has an easy answer to the question of why he is competing in an Xfinity Series race at 62 years old.

“Why not do it?” Elliott said.

Elliott will drive the GMS Racing No. 23 car Saturday at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. He hasn’t competed in a NASCAR national series race since the July 2012 NASCAR Cup Series race at Daytona. He hasn’t competed in an Xfinity Series race since 2005.

A record 16-time most popular driver, the NASCAR Hall of Famer has won 44 Cup races and the 1988 Cup series title.

“How do you know if you don’t try?” Elliott said. “Whether you win, lose or draw, you always try to do things extra at the end of the day. From this standpoint, it’s just go out and have a good time.

“There’s a lot of people who want to come up and watch me race, and say whatever you do, you do, that’s not the point — we just want to see you out there. I think there’s a lot to be said for that.”

Elliott has been competing in recent vintage races with friend and former crew chief/team owner Ray Evernham, who wouldn’t rule out a top-5 finish for his former driver.

“I don’t know about that,” Elliott said. “Them kids are good. I’ve watched them. I’ve seen the other side of the world. I have no idea what to expect. … [What I’ve been doing] is not this league of racing.”

He stresses he expects to have fun and laughed about having the yellow bumper to designate him as a rookie since he’s never raced in the series at Road America. He’ll have to go to the rookie meeting but also will get the extra set of tires that rookies get.

“I feel pretty good in the cars, but I don’t know what to expect,” Elliott said. “I don’t have a clue.”

The only thing that could make his return better would be if his son, Chase, competed against him. That won’t happen, but Chase will spot one of the corners — just as his father did for him in his NASCAR Cup Series win earlier this month at Watkins Glen.

“I told him I was going to run five laps and get out and he would take over — I’m tired, man, I can’t do this,” Bill Elliott quipped.

Funny thing is, Elliott will get natural breathers because of the stages, a format that wasn’t around when he last competed. The lengthy 4.05-mile Road America course means a race with stages of 10 laps, 10 laps and 25 laps. With caution flags, the second stage likely will be eight laps.

“It’s not an easy thing to do to jump into a race when you haven’t raced an Xfinity car or a Cup car in quite a while,” Chase Elliott said. “So, I think he just wants to go have fun and see how the cars are different nowadays than what they were a handful of years ago.

“He still enjoys racing and he hasn’t forgotten how to drive, I don’t think. So I think he’ll be in good shape and have fun with it. That’s the main thing. He’s got nothing to prove. He’ll have a good time.”

Chase was the one who recommended to the team that his father compete in the race.

“It was really just a casual conversation I was having with [GMS president] Mike Beam, and the race was open and I’m like, ‘Man, you ought to put Dad in the car that weekend’ and kind of pushed for it,” Chase said. “And he was open to it. And Dad was open to doing it.”

So then they told Elliott he was racing.

“They just said, ‘Hey, you’re going to do it,'” Bill Elliott said. “I’m in the car. I said, ‘I can’t talk you out of it?’ [They said] ‘Nope — we’ve done announced it.'”

So if Bill Elliott does well, how many more of these Xfinity races could he do?

“I think this might be a one-and-done,” Elliott said with a laugh. “I’ll go back to my vintage racing.”



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