Hey, here's some good news: Bill Elliott is on the entry list for this weekend's Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte. It'll mark his 61st start in Charlotte. And since he's a past champion, he's guaranteed a slot, no matter what.
Much like certain baseball players and hair-metal music, Elliott gets dismissed or overlooked these days because he dominated in the cultural and sporting wasteland that was the 1980s. But try these stats on for size: From 1983 to 1995, he finished in the top 10 in 12 of 13 seasons, and in the 13th, he finished 11th. Included in that total were a championship, three second-place finishes and two third-place finishes. The dude could flat-out wheel.
He's still out there trying. Believe it or not, he ran 20 races as recently as 2008. But he just doesn't have the equipment anymore. One wonders how he would have fared had he gotten the Mark Martin treatment — top-flight cars, top-flight team support — in his later years, seeing as how he's only a couple years older than Martin.
Elliott, long one of the fastest drivers in NASCAR, will try to qualify on speed, but if he doesn't, he'll use his champions' provisional to get in. Another 11 drivers will thus fight for the remaining seven spots in the field. You're looking at a competition between Mike Bliss, Max Papis, David Stremme, Reed Sorenson, David Gilliland, J.J. Yeley, Todd Bodine, Michael McDowell, Dave Blaney, Joe Nemechek and a driver to be named later for Tommy Baldwin Racing.
Regardless of who else makes it in, it's always good to see Awesome Bill back in the mix.