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1987 Winston: Elliott will 'never forget' Earnhardt's all-star move
Editor's note: This week we're looking back at the 1987 Winston All-Star Race, one of the most historic races in NASCAR history. RELATED: The 1987 Winston: Where Are They Now? Nearly 30 years later NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott still says he has never been more frustrated in a race car than he was with the ending of the 1987 running of The Winston All-Star Race. He led a dominating 121 of the 135 laps but came out on the wrong end of a hard-nosed door-to-door battle for the win with the "Intimidator" Dale Earnhardt in the final 10-lap segment. The close-quarter, late-lap racing in The Winston between the season's top two championship contenders famously resulted in Earnhardt's "pass in the grass" -- even though in reality it was much closer to a maintain-in-the-terrain, but it still became racing lore. The race itself is a legitimately legendary story starring Elliott and Earnhardt with perhaps the most famous NASCAR driver lineups of all-time essentially playing supporting roles. Hall of Famers such as Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Terry Labonte, Rusty Wallace and Darrell Waltrip raced that day, joining many of the sport's all-time most popular racers such as Neil Bonnett, Geoffrey Bodine and Tim Richmond. As NASCAR prepares for the modern-day version of this event, the Sprint All-Star Race this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway , it's a good stock-car history lesson to relive the 1987 event. Many consider this the most famous All-Star running -- a hard-nosed, win-at-all-costs race that raised the sport's profile and its expectations. In particular, the late-lap duel between Elliott and Earnhardt is considered required folklore for NASCAR fans, as it was the first instance of the All-Star Race having a 10-lap shootout to the finish. Even today Elliott is still miffed about his missed opportunity, he told NASCAR.com "That was probably the maddest I've ever been, but you just have to deal with it and go on,’’ said Elliott , who after being passed by Earnhardt had to pit in the waning laps to change out a flat tire, ultimately finishing 14th.
Elliott sheds rookie label, battles for Bristol top five
RELATED: Full results from Bristol BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Coming off a career-best Sprint Cup Series finish of fifth at Texas last weekend, Chase Elliott has outdone himself, earning a fourth-place finish in Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway . The 20-year-old qualified 19th for the short track event, Elliott's second-lowest qualifying spot since the start of his rookie season. But that was only motivation for the young rookie to battle his way up through the field. "We started off real slow," Elliott said post-race. "We didn't qualify as well as we'd like to on Friday but I thought we hit on a couple things yesterday in final practice that, fortunately, we carried over to today and were able to kind of run our way up through there." Elliott ran as high as second during Sunday's race, but he didn't get there without a few bumps at "The Last Great Colosseum." The Hendrick Motorsports driver experienced a loose wheel early in the 500-lap event, causing him to come down pit road while the green flag was out. But thanks to his No. 24 pit crew, Elliott didn't fall too far behind. "Hate to have a loose wheel," Elliott said. "But the guys did a good job overcoming that with a fast pit stop under green, only losing two laps, so that was big to keep us in contention there and try to get back on the lead lap. So, definitely a long afternoon, but that was the biggest thing that kept us alive." Despite Elliott's strong finish at Bristol, as well as four other top-10 finishes this season, he's got fellow Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Ryan Blaney to battle with week after week. The No. 21 driver also has been running in the top 10 consistently, with an average finish of 19.2 through eight races ( Elliott's average finish is 15.8). Even though Blaney also had a strong showing at Bristol, running in the top five and top 10 and ultimately finishing 11th, the Wood Brothers Racing driver felt his Ford deserved better. "It was good until the end," Blaney said. "We should have run fifth, easy. ... We had a good race car and got stuck on the bottom for three straight restarts and went backward. That's pretty disappointing when you know you have a top-five race car." For Blaney, the Food City 500 was not the 22-year-old's first go-around at Bristol in the Sprint Cup Series. Blaney made a start in the No. 21 Ford in 2015 for Bristol's fall night race, finishing 22nd. This was Elliott's first Cup Series start at Bristol, a track his NASCAR Hall of Famer father Bill Elliott earned his first short-track victory at in 1988. The younger Elliott's only other short track experience in the Cup Series was his run at Richmond in 2015, where he finished 16th.
Chase Elliott earns 21 Means 21 Pole Award at Talladega
RELATED: Lineup " See all 40 cars TALLADEGA, Ala. – Numerologists doubtless will have a field day with the front row for Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway (on FOX at 1 p.m. ET, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Touring the 2.66-mile race track in 49.704 seconds (192.661 mph) during Saturday's time trials, Chase Elliott put the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet on the pole, making the 20-year-old rookie driver two-for-two at restrictor-plate superspeedways. In his first qualifying run as a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver, Elliott won the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500 . The pole was the sixth at Talladega for the No. 24, the first five having been recorded by Jeff Gordon , who retired after the 2015 season and turned the car over to Elliott . And the pole run came roughly 30 years after Elliott's father, Bill Elliott , earned the top starting spot for the spring Talladega race with a lap at 212.229 mph, before restrictor plates were introduced at the superspeedways. Coincidentally, Bill Elliott also won the pole for the Daytona 500 in 1986. "This is definitely a special place," Chase Elliott said after his pole-winning run. "It's cool to get it done today. This is a team effort, and those guys and everybody at the No. 5 and No. 24 shop, in particular, and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports and the Hendrick engine department and obviously (sponsor) NAPA Auto parts. "But, man, this is cool. Those guys do such a good job. And as I said in Daytona, this had nothing to do with me. This is the car that we had. This is the same car we had in Daytona. They brought another fast one here." The car Elliott beat for the pole, the No. 3 Chevrolet driven by Austin Dillon (192.424 mph), also has a noteworthy history at Talladega. Driving the No. 3 for owner Richard Childress, Dillon’s grandfather, the late Dale Earnhardt collected nine of his 10 Talladega victories and all three of his Talladega poles. "There's a lot of history here with Dale and RCR," Dillon said. "A lot of good stuff happened with RCR here, so hopefully we can continue that streak of good runs for RCR here. We’ve got a car capable of doing that, obviously, with the qualifying effort, and I'd love for it to be my first Cup win." Dale Earnhardt Jr ., who has never won a pole at NASCAR's biggest oval track but has six race wins on his resume here, qualified third at 192.293 mph. Matt Kenseth (192.181 mph) claimed the fourth position on the grid, followed by Jimmie Johnson (192.116 mph) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr . (192.089 mph). The only other driver to top 192 mph was seventh-place starter Brad Keselowski (192.008 mph), a three-time Talladega winner. Ty Dillon qualified the No. 14 Chevrolet for Tony Stewart and earned the 14th starting spot, but Stewart will start Sunday’s race and will have to drop to the rear for the green flag because of the driver change. The plan is for Stewart, who returned to action last Sunday at Richmond after injuring his back during the offseason, to turn the car over to Dillon during the first caution of the race. Note: Josh Wise failed to make the 40-car field.
Chase Elliott reveals Darlington paint scheme
RELATED: Buy Darlington tickets " '16 throwback schemes " SHOP: No. 24 gear Chase Elliott became the latest driver to reveal his throwback paint scheme for the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway (Sept. 4, 6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) via Race Hub on Friday. . @ChaseElliott unveils his @NAPARacing @TooToughToTame throwback paint scheme on @FS1 's #NASCAR #RaceHub . https://t.co/VA17ixUToP — FS1 (@FS1) May 27, 2016 The Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender's No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet will feature a yellow and black paint scheme honoring Elliott's primary sponsor NAPA Auto Parts and its delivery truck logo from the 1960s. The bottom half of the Chevrolet is a sleek black with the current NAPA design atop the quarter panels. The rear television panel includes white script reading "90 Years Strong" to celebrate the company's 90 years in business. Hendrick Motorsports posted a live teaser video minutes before the unveiling with Kenny Wallace at the organization's Concord, North Carolina-based shop. "We appreciate the support of our throwback program by Chase Elliott and Hendrick Motorsports," Darlington Raceway President Chip Wile said in a release. "Chase's special paint scheme for the Bojangles' Southern 500 is one that fans won't want to miss on Labor Day weekend." This marks Darlington's second straight year -- in a five-year plan -- hosting a throwback-themed event for the famed Southern 500 event.
Bill Elliott finds joy in watching his son's rise
RELATED: From tardy slip to pole-sitter " Gordon gets chills watching No. 24 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The pride on Bill Elliott 's face was unmistakable as he emerged from a small radio interview room Sunday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway . An hour earlier, his 20-year old son, Chase Elliott , had furthered the family's storied name by adding his own remarkable chapter to Daytona 500 record books by winning the pole for Sunday's race. And his dad was visibly moved. The great event's youngest pole-winner ever – by three years – Chase Elliott had just completed a press conference where he was as mindful of realistic expectations for a young rookie in his first Daytona 500 as he was humbled by the historic achievement. RELATED: Relive Chase's Daytona pole, frame-by-frame Chase gets his balanced disposition honestly. His father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott , was never one to give in to the hyperbole through an amazing five-decade NASCAR career that included a Cup championship and 44 wins – including two in the Daytona 500 (1985 and 1987). RELATED: Father-son duos with 'Great American Race' pole awards However, this Sunday afternoon, Bill Elliott was wearing the smile of an extremely proud dad – and willing to share the experience with a couple reporters. As calm and calculating as Bill was during his own racing career, he was almost effusive in the pride and love he felt for his son this day. "I try to tell him, 'Enjoy it,'’" Bill Elliott said, grinning. "Because the problem is, then the years turn into 20 to 30 and to 40, and you wonder where it all went." Bill Elliott and his wife, Cindy, had watched their only son's qualifying laps around the sport's most famous speedway while managing both high hope and tempered expectation. As usual, they stood away from the spotlight, only emerging when Chase had sealed this very big deal. "We were in the shadows – where we usually are – just watching and taking it all in, then we walked onto pit road to celebrate with him," Cindy Elliott said while waiting for her son to complete his media obligations Sunday afternoon. "I guess you could say we just had a big Valentine's gift. We're so excited for him. It's a long week so we're pacing; one day at a time." Some of the reserve and realism that characterized Bill's great career is readily evident in his son as well. While answering questions from the media moments earlier, Chase Elliott came off as a much wiser, more sensible person than someone 20 years old should be. He is noticeably measured, and takes time to think about the questions – and he got a flurry of them Sunday afternoon – before answering. And quite often, as he typically does, Chase delivered an alternate perspective from what people might have anticipated. Although cognizant of the hype, Chase does not give in to the great expectations as he takes over Jeff Gordon ’s famed No. 24 Chevrolet at Hendrick Motorsports . He is simultaneously reverent of Gordon's career achievements and yet realistic about the learning curve he, himself, will endure not only this season, but for several to come. And his father's steady guidance and support is both evident and invaluable. "For some reason, he just thinks this is where he wants to be, and that' s it," Bill Elliott said. "I've told him numerous times, 'You know, if this isn't what you really want to do, you need to find something else. It will chew you up and spit you out.' He says, 'Nope, that's what I want to do.' Since he was a little kid it was, 'Yep, I want to drive a race car.' "Since he was little – four or five years old – he always had his Matchbox cars and run them around on these little tracks, totally focused. He'd sit on the pit box on Sundays and tell [then Elliott's team owner] Ray [Evernham] all this stuff." The Elliotts have been such staunch supporters of their son, and subsequently his biggest cheerleaders – whether Chase was winning the prestigious Snowball Derby late model race as a 16-year old or the 2014 XFINITY Series title as an 18-year old in his first full year of big-time NASCAR competition. They have supported, but they have never pushed. “Watching Chase grow up and watching him race, he was pretty good when we raced go-karts on road courses," Bill Elliott recalled. "Then when he moved up and we ran Bandaleros and Legends and he did well with that. But he really excelled when he got in a late model car. That just seemed to be when the light switch went on. And thereafter, no matter what he got in, the heavier, the bigger the car, the better he got. "I'm very proud today. No matter what today brings and Thursday [Can-Am Duels] brings and next Sunday brings is another piece of the puzzle. … You just have to take Daytona and do the best you can to get through it. You just never know."
Chase Elliott's SunEnergy1 paint scheme revealed
Photo credit: Hendrick Motorsports Chase Elliott will have a sun-filled paint scheme later this year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The look for his SunEnergy1-sponsored No. 24 Chevrolet has been unveiled and it has quite the array of colors. The car will first take to the track at Daytona International Speedway ahead of the July 2 race at the revamped facility. SunEnergy1 will also be the primary sponsor for Elliott ’s races at Watkins Glen International (Aug. 7), Kansas Speedway (Oct. 16) and Phoenix International Raceway (Nov. 13). SunEnergy1 founder, CEO and part-time NASCAR driver Kenny Habul will pilot the No. 88 SunEnergy1 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports in the NASCAR XFINITY Series on Aug. 6 at Watkins Glen International . The solar energy company is on board as a sponsor for four races in each of the next three years for the Hendrick Motorsports driver. Elliott ’s rookie season in the sport’s top series is off to a strong start. In addition to nabbing the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500 , he has three top-10 finishes in the season’s first five races. The 20-year-old Georgia native and son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott is 16th in the point standings. RELATED: Which rookie will win first? " SHOP: Elliott fan gear
Drafting 101: Chase Elliott's crash-free course in Duels
MORE: Full starting lineup for 500 RELATED: Can-Am Duel 1 results " Photos from Duels DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Chase Elliott 's first taste of Daytona 500 qualifying racing Thursday night ended well with the 20-year-old rookie securing a sixth-place finish in the first of two Can-Am Duel events. The Daytona 500 pole-winner led the first two laps of the race before eventual race winner -- and Elliott's Hendrick Motorsports teammate -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . took control leading all but 27 of the 60 laps. Elliott expected it would be a learning experience -- a high speed lesson in speedway drafting with the big kids. And it certainly proved to be. "Just a lot of things learned for me, got into a few positions, had a few things happen that I should have stopped before they did happen," Elliott said. "The top was pretty dominant, I feel like whatever lane Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) was in, was moving forward fast. He does a good job working the air and that was something I struggled with." Elliott spoke at length with his crew on pit road after climbing out of his No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet after the race. This year's version of Speedweeks is simultaneously a learning experience and a high-profile opportunity for the promising young talent. Elliott , son of NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Bill Elliott , has taken over the driver's seat of just-retired Jeff Gordon 's famed No. 24 Chevrolet. He was well aware many eyes were on him for that reason. After becoming the youngest Daytona pole-sitter in history this past weekend, the expectations are high for the rookie. RELATED: Bill finds joy in Chase's rise in NASCAR None higher, however, than Elliott's own. Standing on pit road after the race he was still scrutinizing his performance, and speaking about learning opportunities. "We've got to be aggressive with the side-draft and keeping guys pinned down at times," Elliott explained of the lessons he learned Thursday night. "It's just being mindful of which lane is forming up ahead of time and the good guys make that happen and recognize that. "We have some areas I know we need to work on and some things I need to recognize before they happen and the good guys do that so I've got to learn. "But," he said turning around and looking at his unscathed Chevrolet, "the car's in one piece. Just got to take it and try to correct things." In addition to working with his teammates on the track, Elliott's six-time champion HMS teammate Jimmie Johnson was on the radio and stood on the pit road stand, offering assistance to his first-year Cup teammate. "Jimmie's up here; he says just make sure you block the middle," Elliott was told at one point. His veteran spotter, Eddie D'Hondt, was mindful of guiding the rookie too. "The tough part here is you just don't want to ever lose this draft. Just keep that in mind," D'Hondt told Elliott early in the event, adding a couple laps later, "So right here you're always in looking your mirror looking to block the middle. See what Kasey did ahead of you was try to side-draft Dillon. What we want to watch here is that not all of your help here bails and goes to the top and you get conga again. But they're not." Another Elliott teammate, the race winner Earnhardt, made a point to speak with the rookie before the race began and told him, "I'm not going to be helping you tonight and don't help me, don't worry about where I'm at. "Do everything you can to keep the lead, don't give the lead up. ...You've just got to be selfish." RELATED: Junior wins Can-Am Duel No. 1 Elliott said he looked forward to getting together with the group for a post-race review, but was encouraged overall and eager to put the lessons learned to use in Sunday's Daytona 500 . "The car's in one piece and we were able to bring it back all in one piece and that was a goal in itself," Elliott said. "That experience gained tonight was the most important thing and I feel good about that and I know there are some things I need to do differently an just correct for Sunday."
Elliott stuck to driving the ovals, not fairways
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Chase Elliott , the newly christened Coors Light "21 Means 21" Pole Award Winner for Sunday's Daytona 500 , says his parents never pushed him toward a career in NASCAR. If they had their way, perhaps the 20-year-old would be taking up a much quieter pursuit. "Mom wanted me to go play golf. She said golf would be a good choice," Elliott said during Tuesday's NASCAR Media Day rotations at Daytona International Speedway . Instead of driving the fairways, Elliott has followed the driving path of his NASCAR Hall of Famer father, Bill Elliott , who started first in four Daytona 500 s. Though his father has provided help as his son has risen through the NASCAR ranks, the younger Elliott said he respected that his parents never nudged him toward stock-car racing. RELATED: Father-son duos to win poles for the 'Great American Race' "Neither one of them have ever forced me to race. It was never that way," Chase Elliott said. "It was always my decision. They always let me make that call. They were always just very respectful. They weren't that soccer mom and dad out there that sometimes can be tough when you have somebody pushing you to do something. It was just never that way. "If I ever went home and told my dad I didn't want to race, there wouldn't be any hard feelings, we would just do something else and have fun with it. It was never like that." Elliott , who said he played peewee soccer at age 5, might be a natural behind the wheel. Golf, not so much. "Terrible," Elliott said of his game. "Terrible at golf."
1987 Winston: Where Are They Now?
RELATED: Elliott will 'never forget' Earnhardt move The starting grid for the 1987 Winston All-Star Race looked a lot like an exhibit befitting the NASCAR Hall of Fame. This was The All-Star Race for the ages. Hall of Famers Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, Terry Labonte, Rusty Wallace and Bill Elliott all competed. Greats such as Neil Bonnett, Harry Gant, Ricky Rudd, Buddy Baker, and Benny Parsons were on the 20-driver starting grid, too. A young Davey Allison and a new Daytona 500 winner Geoffrey Bodine lined up alongside these iconic names. The fast and famed Tim Richmond was on the grid, too, in what was his final season of NASCAR competition. And don't forget about Kyle Petty, Bobby Hillin Jr. and Greg Sacks. The only driver on that famed All-Star lineup still NASCAR racing today is Morgan Shepherd, who drove a car fielded by drag racing legend Kenny Bernstein -- and his seventh-place finish that day in his first All-Star Race remains his best showing. That starting lineup was a true convergence of NASCAR's best -- sentimental favorites, crusty veterans, future Hall of Famers and young stars out to make their big names. It had personality. It had top-line credentials. In only its third running, the 1987 race showed exactly the pizzazz that would help forge the All-Star Race into the can't-miss annual event that will be on full display Saturday in the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway . For all its historical allure, amazingly in that famed 1987 race only four drivers even led a lap -- the winner Earnhardt (10), the day's dominant driver Elliott (121), Bodine (3) and Kyle Petty (1). The great seven-time Cup champ Richard Petty crashed with the late superstar Neil Bonnett on Lap 66. As dominant and successful as Petty was, it's easy to forget he never won an All-Star Race. Among the most memorable aspects of this race will undoubtedly be the day's winner Earnhardt's "Pass in the Grass" of Elliott . It wasn't actually a pass at all, but Earnhardt maneuvering to hold onto his late race lead over Elliott in the day's most dominant car. It was the first of three All-Star wins for Earnhardt. And the gritty, hard-nosed final laps racing launched this -- then still young -- event into a bona fide can't-miss rite of spring. The above photo itself has become quite a piece of NASCAR lore. When this group of 20 drivers came together for this indelible image, these are the numbers they would leave behind: 812 premier series victories, 26 premier series championships, 11 All-Star Race wins ... and one urban legend.
Larson on winning: 'I want to do it the right way'
Two days after the fact, Kyle Larson didn't sound as if he looked back on his latest runner-up finish with any regrets. Disappointed, sure, but regretting nothing about how he handled the closing laps of Sunday's AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway Second for a fourth time in his still-blossoming NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career, the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates driver was unable to overtake Matt Kenseth in the waning laps, eventually stopping his No. 42 Chevrolet on pit road instead of victory lane. The "should he or shouldn't he" question was inevitable. Contact with Kenseth might have made Larson a winner for the first time since stepping up to the premier series in 2013. But it was a price the 23-year-old said he wasn't willing to pay. "I felt like I did everything I could do to get by him without getting into him," Larson said during a break in Tuesday's Goodyear tire test at Michigan International Speedway . "I've always felt like Matt's raced me with a ton of respect so I wanted to do my part, racing him with a lot of respect as well. It was a fun battle. … "I did have a couple of chances to get into him but that's not really how I want to win my first one. I want to do it the right way. I don't regret it; maybe it could come back to haunt me, but you never know." CGR fields two Sprint Cup teams, the No. 42 for Larson and the No. 1 for teammate Jamie McMurray , a seven-time winner in the series. From a statistical standpoint, the Dover finish was the closest yet for Larson, who trailed the Joe Gibbs Racing winner by .187 seconds at the line. Two years ago, it was Kyle Busch throwing a final-lap block at Auto Club Speedway that foiled Larson's advances. Later that season, it was Joey Logano driving away on a green-white-checkered finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Again in '14, this time at Kansas in The Chase, Larson was unable to reel in Logano during a final 26-lap green-flag run. Others have weathered similar storms: Kasey Kahne finished second six times before his first Sprint Cup win and NASCAR Hall of Fame member Bill Elliott was a bridesmaid eight times before winning. The record for near-misses before victory belongs to former driver Lennie Pond, who was second on 12 occasions. Tabbed as a can't-miss prospect by veterans such as three-time champion Tony Stewart , Larson scored eight top-fives and 17 top-10 finishes during his rookie season -- more than several of those who finished ahead of him in the points battle. But '15 wasn't as kind, his numbers dropped and even through the beginning of the current season his results seemed to lag. More recent efforts, however, have been encouraging. "Our cars just haven't been quite as fast as they were in 2014," Larson said. "We'd kind of fallen behind a little bit on building the bodies the way they need to be and maybe chassis stuff a little bit. But we brought in some smart people over the offseason." The addition of crew chief Chad Johnston and engineer Phil Surgen "has really brought a lot of influence to (both) our race teams," he said. Larson heads into Friday night's Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway (7:10 p.m. ET, FS1) as one of the favorites to earn one of the transfer spots into Saturday's annual Sprint All-Star Race. "I definitely feel like I'm a smarter racer now, a better race car driver," he said. "I feel like over the last several years I've kept that same aggressiveness, but gotten my patience a little bit better. "To be a championship driver, I think you have to put the whole package together and patience is a big part of that."