Bill Elliott may have won his sole NASCAR Cup Series championship in 1988, but his single most dominant season went down in 1985. It was that year that the Dawsonville, Georgia native earned his two most famous nicknames: "Million Dollar Bill" and "Awesome Bill From Dawsonville."
Today, younger NASCAR fans may know the 67-year-old NASCAR Hall of Famer as simply Chase Elliott's dad. But, nearly 40 years ago, Bill Elliott cemented his legacy as a NASCAR legend in one single season. And, it all started with his dominating win at the 1985 Daytona 500.
WATCH: Full Race Recap of 1985 Daytona 500
Before his legendary win at the 1985 Daytona 500, Bill Elliott had three straight close calls at the Cup Series kickoff race at Daytona International Speedway. From 1982 and 1984, Elliott finished in the top five three straight times at the "Great American Race," including a runner-up finish in 1983. But, 1985 was a different story for Elliott.
During qualifying, Elliott won the pole with a speed of 205.114 MPH, which was a record at the time. He then dominated most of the race in his No. 9 Ford, leading for 136 of the 200 laps and nearly lapping the rest of the field before he had to pit late in the race.
The forced pit stop for a broken headlight assembly sent him back to third place, but Elliott quickly made up for lost time. It also didn't hurt that there were several engine failures during the race, which knocked out a number of drivers, including AJ Foyt, Benny Parsons, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, and David Pearson. Following a late caution flag caused by Neil Bonnett's Chevrolet spinning out with less than four laps to go, Elliott maintained his lead until the end, securing his first Daytona 500 win (his second would come two years later).
Later that season, Elliott became the first driver to win the Winston Million (which is how he earned the nickname "Million Dollar Bill"). The award went to any driver who won at least three of the four Grand Slam races in a NASCAR season. Elliott, of course, won the Daytona 500, before later winning the Winston 500 at Talladega and the Southern 500 at Darlington to win the $1 million award. It took 12 years for another driver to accomplish that feat when Jeff Gordon won three of the four Grand Slam races in 1997.
On top of winning the Winston Million, Elliott set a NASCAR modern-era record of 11 superspeedway victories in one season. He also completed a sweep at four different tracks in one season (Pocono, Michigan, Darlington, and Atlanta), which marked another modern-era record. Despite finishing second in the championship standings to Darrell Waltrip, Elliott was voted the National Motorsports Press Association Driver of the Year for 1985. And now you can probably guess where the nickname "Awesome Bill" comes from.
Want More Sports News?
Get the biggest and best sports news sent directly to your inbox.