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The Mainstream Catches on to NASCAR

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Elliott Becomes ‘Million Dollar Bill’

The 1985 season was often described as intriguing and curious. Thanks to one particular racer from a small, north Georgia community, stock car racing was quickly gaining acceptance among fans of mainstream professional sports.

As the season began, drivers and teams were eyeing an unprecedented bonus. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., the sponsor of NASCAR’s premier series through its Winston brand, was offering a $1 million bonus to any driver who could win three of stock car racing’s four marquee events – the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the Win- ston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway and the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

It seemed an impossible task given the series’ level of competition and, certainly, no one expected a small team from Dawsonville, Georgia, to meet the lofty challenge.

But Bill Elliott answered the call by winning the Daytona 500 in convincing fashion behind the wheel of a sleek and powerful No. 9 Ford Thunderbird owned by Michigan businessman Harry Melling. Elliott then fell short of the Coca-Cola 600 victory due to brake problems while Darrell Waltrip, in Junior Johnson’s No. 11 Chevro- let, won NASCAR’s longest race.

Round three was the Winston 500 and Elliott earned the pole starting position with a record qualifying lap of more than 205 mph. Brake problems early in the race saw him fall two laps behind, but he came roaring back to the claim the victory.

The finale of the four special events was the leg- endary Southern 500 in September. After holding off a hard-charging Cale Yarborough during the clos- ing laps, Elliott claimed the victory and banked the $1 million bonus..


PRESIDENT: Ronald Reagan

NO. 1 AT THE BOX OFFICE: Beverly Hills Cop II

NO. 1 SONG: “We Are The World” by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie

POP CULTURE: The first “The Simpsons” cartoon short was shown on the Tracey Ullman Show.



BILL ELLIOTT ARRIVED at Daytona International Speedway in February 1985 determined to dominate the superspeedways. In the process, he and his brothers, Ernie Elliott (crew chief) and Dan Elliott (mechanic), won nearly half of the races on the 28- race schedule. His famous red, white and gold No. 9 Ford rolled into Victory Lane 11 times, producing one of the most successful years in NASCAR’s modern era with 16 top-five finishes, 18 top-10 results and 11 pole positions.


ELLIOTT’S VICTORY IN the Southern 500 was the greatest of the season and possibly the decade. He set up the springs and shocks on the team’s Ford himself, making sure it could handle the tricky and narrow track configuration for which Darlington Raceway is so famous.

The Georgia native led 100 of the 367 laps and garnered international headlines after crossing under the checkered flag to collect a $1 million bonus for winning three of NASCAR’s most prestigious events in the same season.


ELLIOTT’S 1985 No. 9 Ford set records and sparked interest in NASCAR around the world. Dale Earnhardt’s No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet was the second-winningest car of 1985 with four wins and 16 top-10 finishes.



Feb. 17 | Daytona International Speedway | Bill Elliott

Feb. 24 | Richmond International Raceway | Dale Earnhardt

March 3 | North Carolina Speedway | Neil Bonnett

March 17 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | Bill Elliott

April 6 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Dale Earnhardt

April 14 | Darlington Raceway | Bill Elliott

April 21 | North Wilkesboro Speedway | Neil Bonnett

April 28 | Martinsville Speedway | Harry Gant

May 5 | Talladega Superspeedway | Bill Elliott

May 19 | Dover International Speedway | Bill Elliott

May 26 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | Darrell Waltrip

June 2 | Riverside International Raceway | Terry Labonte

June 9 | Pocono Raceway | Bill Elliott

June 16 | Michigan International Speedway | Bill Elliott

July 4 | Daytona International Speedway | Greg Sacks

July 21 | Pocono Raceway | Bill Elliott

July 28 | Talladega Superspeedway | Cale Yarborough

Aug. 11 | Michigan International Speedway | Bill Elliott

Aug. 24 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Dale Earnhardt

Sept. 1 | Darlington Raceway | Bill Elliott

Sept. 8 | Richmond International Raceway | Darrell Waltrip

Sept. 15 | Dover International Speedway | Harry Gant

Sept. 22 | Martinsville Speedway | Dale Earnhardt

Sept. 29 | North Wilkesboro Speedway | Harry Gant

Oct. 6 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | Cale Yarborough

Oct. 20 | North Carolina Speedway | Darrell Waltrip

Nov. 3 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | Bill Elliott

Nov. 17 | Riverside International Raceway | Ricky Rudd

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