Bill Elliott hasn't started a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in over a year, since qualifying sixth in a Turner Scott Motorsports car at Daytona International Speedway last July. Much of his time since has been spent helping to further the career of his son Chase, who is taking his first steps into the sport's national division.
But is the 1988 champion of the sport's premier circuit retired? Well, not if the right ride came along. The 44-time winner still feels the urge to race.
"Oh, yeah, I think so. You know, I would love to do it," he said. "But you know, you've got to have all the right circumstances. And to me ? you're only as good as the equipment you're in, and if you don't get good equipment, then you'll never know how good you really are. To me, it's a point of getting the right circumstances and getting the right things together. That's the way I look at it today. There's so many good drivers that are on the sidelines that are looking for that good drive."
Elliott last competed full-time in NASCAR in 2003, winning that season's penultimate event at Rockingham in a car owned by Ray Evernham. He raced on a limited basis for the next nine years, sometimes making as many as 20 starts, sometimes as few as a couple. He attempted three races last season, failing to qualify for the Daytona 500 and finishing deep in the field due to electrical failure at Talladega and a crash at Daytona in July.
Now 57, Elliott has moved into another role: molding his 17-year-old son Chase, who will make his fourth start in the Camping World Truck Series when he competes Saturday night at Iowa Speedway. Even with the added responsibility of guiding his son's career, Elliott wouldn't rule out jumping behind the wheel again himself should the right offer present itself.
"Right now, I'm just trying to weigh my options ?? do more races, or if that's not in the cards, I'll go the other directions," he said. "I'd like to go out and do some other stuff, but right now try to focus on Chase and what he needs to do on that side. That's kind of been my focus here the last number of months, and, you know, take that a step at a time, and once that kind of goes, then go from there."
Asked if he had any options to drive, Elliott laughed. "I don't at the moment," he added.
"There's just not a lot of opportunities out there. You know, after driving the car that I drove the last Fourth of July for Turner Motorsports, and that's as good a car as I had. And as good as that car ran -- man, it's hard to do any less, I'm telling you. And the problem is, it's just, man, it's just such a struggle today. ?Either you go out there and make your laps or you go out there to run good. I want to race to run good, but man, it's just hard to do."
If Elliott doesn't start a race this season, it would mark the first year since 1975 that he hasn't competed at the sport's top level. It would also start his countdown toward eligibility for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, given that drivers have to be retired from the sport for at least three years before they're qualified for enshrinement. But being fitted for a blue blazer isn't Elliott's focus just yet.
"Right now, that's something that I feel like I'm looking at down the road," he said. "? But like I said, I just ?? right now, I'm just kind of waiting."