In 2003, Bill Elliott ran his final full season in the NASCAR Cup Series after racking up nearly 30 years of accolades that included 44 wins (including two Daytona 500s), 320 top-10 finishes, a Cup championship, and 16 Most Popular Driver awards. Even though he had accomplished enough in his career to happily ride off into the sunset, Awesome Bill From Dawsonville wasn't ready to give up the NASCAR life entirely after '03, so he entered a period of semi-retirement where he would race occasionally in Cup and Xfinity Series races.
Before Road America's Johnsonville 180 back in August 2018, Elliott hadn't made a NASCAR Xfinity Series start since 2005. While he didn't get the top-15 finish he was hoping for, it was still a pretty solid return for the then 62-year-old NASCAR Hall of Famer. Starting 23rd in the Xfinity race, Elliott sustained hood and nose damage following a run-in early on at the Wisconsin road course. In the race's final laps, his No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet spun off the track, but Elliott was able to make up a little bit of ground and improve from 28th place to 20th.
While Elliott admitted in the post-race interview that he certainly didn't race the way he had hoped to, he still had a blast in his return to the track.
"I feel like I hit everything but the lottery," Elliott said after the race. "It was a great day. I'd like to thank Xfinity and all the guys. ISM Connect and Maury [Gallagher, GMS Racing team owner] for everything they did for me today. It was a heck of a lot of fun."
"I felt like I needed more through [Turns] 9 and 10, the carousel, to carry any speed through there. I just felt like I gave up too much in like [Turn] 3. I was not too bad in 5, 6, 7, 8. I got a little bit free down in 11. But all in all, it was a good day. I enjoyed it, had a good time."
When asked whether or not he would run another race, Elliott said that he doubted it, though reiterated how great it was to be back behind a stock car wheel.
"This was a lot of fun, a good time," Elliott said. "These guys are serious racers. I mean all these kids are really, really good. I felt like I held my own pretty good for where I'm at in my career and what I was trying to do. It's just hard to put it all together."
Now 66 years old, Bill Elliott has yet to return back to NASCAR competition, but he also still has yet to leave racing for good. In 2021, he ran a full season in Tony Stewart's Superstar Racing Experience, with his best finish being a third-place showing at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. He ultimately finished ninth in points. In late April 2022, it was announced that Elliott would return to SRX for two races. He placed ninth in the Five Flags Speedway race on June 18 and will get behind the wheel again at Stafford Motor Speedway for the July 2 race. What a legend!