Bill Elliott on the NASCAR Hall of Fame and how he prepared his son for handling stardom

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        DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A fan favorite who once was voted NASCAR’s most popular driver a record 16 times, Bill Elliott is accustomed to being the object of affection.

But the adulation has changed since Elliott was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame last year.

“It’s kind of rejuvenated everything from the standpoint of the fans and the recognition and stuff like that,” Elliott told NBC Sports. “I think it’s definitely different.

“They want you to sign things ‘Hall of Fame,’ and they bring back the old stuff. It kind of validates everything they’ve collected.”

After being inducted with Rex White, Fred Lorenzen, Wendell Scott and Joe Weatherly into the Charlotte shrine Jan. 30 (the night after his son, Chase, was announced as the 2016 replacement for Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 Chevrolet), Elliott has been stumping for the Hall of Fame. The 1988 series champion made a series of promotional stops last month during Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway, including a sitdown interview with NASCAR Talk:

NT: Rusty Wallace and Dale Jarrett both said they felt extra responsibility to be Hall of Fame ambassadors because each class doesn’t have five living members? Do you feel that same need to be a spokesman?

BE: Very much so. To me, it’s been important because I am still around. Some of these guys like a Rex White or Fred (Lorenzen) or some guys that were exposed through the 1950s and ‘60s era, to be able to listen to their stories and help carry that to the next generation, I think that’s important. Those guys paved the road for us and for future generations. (Telling) what their contributions were to the sport, I think that’s the legacy of the whole thing.

NT: So you agree with Richard Petty, who said he didn’t feel he should be in the first class of the Hall of Fame because everyone from the first decade of NASCAR should have been recognized before him?

BE: I agree. But I am thankful that I am able to enjoy it and understand it and be a part of it for the older generation that might be either gone or not able to enjoy it.

NT: You weren’t always comfortable in the spotlight. Is it any more comfortable now that you’re being recognized after your career?
It’s fine now. Back in the early days, I worked on a car just like anybody else. We felt like if the race car run good, the rest would come. Our biggest goal was to make sure the race car ran fast. That’s what I felt like I could do best. As time goes on, now I’m kind of here and part of the show. It’s a different deal, but I enjoy it. I enjoy seeing the younger groups come up and who’s doing what. I understand racing enough to know what it’s kind of all about and the things that I enjoy about it. I still have, like Benny Parsons said, I have a passion for the sport.

NT: Your son is so comfortable and mature beyond his years talking with media …

BE: So far. (smiles) He’s done a good job.

NT: Did you work on instilling those values, or has it been natural?

BE: It’s been all pretty natural. We’ve talked to him about certain things, but he grew up in it. He understands the sport. I think he understands it better than most. He knows the things that are important. He watches the interviews after the race. He studies everything. I think he’s just very analytical in the things that he does. He’s able to put all that together. That’s been his strengths.

NT: What was it like having your Hall of Fame induction coming on the heels of his No. 24 news?

BE: I think his announcement was bigger than mine!

NT: But the events dovetailed nicely for your family?

BE: Believe me, I was as shocked as you all were, because they didn’t tell us until two days before the announcement. You’d hope something like that would happen, but for it to really come to light and finally things come together, it was like, ‘Hey man, this is an incredible week.’ It was just such an enjoyable week. It was laid back, a lot of fun, it was great to see a lot of the older guys I hadn’t seen like Bud Moore, Maurice Petty, Dale Inman. I grew up around that. They were all so much a part of your life for so long.

NT: Are you in awe of one Hall of Famer in particular?

BE: Leonard (Wood) was always kind of my hero because as hard as I worked on the car in the early days. I’ll never forget coming to Daytona, and I could watch Leonard work on his car. He could work on the motor and never raise the hood. He’d put it on jackstands, take the front tires off, and he’d get in there and change things. He’d be secretive in what he was doing. I thought, ‘Man, that was cool.’ I always enjoyed Bud, Junior (Johnson) and all those guys and listening to the stories. Dale Inman was always a cutup and into something. I just couldn’t imagine being around those guys in the 50s and 60s.

I’ve enjoyed this. It’s been a lot of fun and been very much an honor for me to be in this class. It just puts the topping on my career.

Dr. Diandra: How level is the playing field after 50 Next Gen races?


Last weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 marks 50 Next Gen races. The 2022 season produced 19 different winners, including a few first-career wins. Let’s see what the data say about how level the playing field is now.

I’m comparing the first 50 Next Gen races (the 2022 season plus the first 14 races of 2023) to the 2020 season and the first 14 races of 2021. I selected those two sets of races to produce roughly the same types of tracks. I focus on top-10 finishes as a metric for performance. Below, I show the top-10 finishes for the 13 drivers who ran for the same team over the periods in question.

A table comparing top-10 rates for drivers in the Gen-6 and Next Gen cars, limited to drivers who ran for the same team the entire time.

Because some drivers missed races, I compare top-10 rates: the number of top-10 finishes divided by the number of races run. The graph below shows changes in top-10 rates for the drivers who fared the worst with the Next Gen car.

A graph showing drivers who have done better in the next-gen car than the Gen-6 car.

Six drivers had double-digit losses in their top-10 rates. Kevin Harvick had the largest drop, with 74% top-10 finishes in the Gen-6 sample but only 46% top-10 finishes in the first 50 Next Gen races.

Kyle Larson didn’t qualify for the graph because he ran only four races in 2020. I thought it notable, however, that despite moving from the now-defunct Chip Ganassi NASCAR team to Hendrick Motorsports, Larson’s top-10 rate fell from 66.7% to 48.0%.

The next graph shows the corresponding data for drivers who improved their finishes in the Next Gen car. This graph again includes only drivers who stayed with the same team.

A graph showing the drivers who have fewer top-10 finishes in the Next Gen car than the Gen-6 car

Alex Bowman had a marginal gain, but he missed six races this year. Therefore, his percent change value is less robust than other drivers’ numbers.

Expanding the field

I added drivers who changed teams to the dataset and highlighted them in gray.

A table comparing top-10 rates for drivers in the Gen-6 and Next Gen cars

A couple notes on the new additions:

  • Brad Keselowski had the largest loss in top-10 rate of any driver, but that may be more attributable to his move from Team Penske to RFK Motorsports rather than to the Next Gen car.
  • Christopher Bell moved from Leavine Family Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2021. His improvement is likely overestimated due to equipment quality differences.
  • Erik Jones stayed even, but that’s after moving from JGR (13 top-10 finishes in 2020) to Richard Petty Motorsports (six top 10s in 2021.) I view that change as a net positive.

At the end of last season, I presented the tentative hypothesis that older drivers had a harder time adapting to the Next Gen car. Less practice time mitigated their experience dialing in a car so that it was to their liking given specific track conditions.

But something else leaps out from this analysis.

Is the playing field tilting again?

Michael McDowell is not Harvick-level old, but he will turn 39 this year. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is 35. Both have improved with the Next Gen Car. Chase Elliott (27 years old) and William Byron (25) aren’t old, either, but their top-10 rates have gone down.

Drivers running for the best-funded teams earned fewer top-10 finishes while drivers from less-funded teams (mostly) gained those finishes.

Trackhouse Racing and 23XI — two of the newest teams — account for much of the gains in top-10 finishes. Ross Chastain isn’t listed in the table because he didn’t have full-time Cup Series rides in 2020 or 2021. His 9.1% top-10 rate in that period is with lower-level equipment. He earned 27 top-10 finishes in the first 50 races (54%) with the Next Gen car.

This analysis suggests that age isn’t the only relevant variable. One interpretation of the data thus far is that the Next Gen (and its associated rules changes) eliminated the advantage well-funded teams built up over years of racing the Gen-5 and Gen-6 cars.

The question now is whether that leveling effect is wearing off. Even though parts are the same, more money means being able to hire the best people and buying more expensive computers for engineering simulations.

Compare the first 14 races of 2022 to the first 14 of 2023.

  • Last year at this time, 23XI and Trackhouse Racing had each won two races. This year, they combine for one win.
  • It took Byron eight races to win his second race of the year in 2022. This year, he won the third and fourth races of the year. Plus, he’s already won his third race this year.
  • Aside from Stenhouse’s Daytona 500 win, this year’s surprise winners — Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney — are both from major teams.

We’re only 14 races into the 2023 season. There’s not enough data to determine the relative importance of age versus building a notebook for predicting success in the Next Gen car.

But this is perhaps the most important question. The Next Gen car leveled the playing field last year.

Will it stay level?

NASCAR weekend schedule at World Wide Technology Raceway, Portland


NASCAR’s top three series are racing this weekend in two different locations. Cup and Craftsman Truck teams will compete at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, and the Xfinity Series will compete at Portland International Raceway.

World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (Cup and Trucks)

Weekend weather

Friday: Partly cloudy with a high of 87 degrees during Truck qualifying.

Saturday: Sunny. Temperatures will be around 80 degrees for the start of Cup practice and climb to 88 degrees by the end of Cup qualifying. Forecast calls for sunny skies and a high of 93 degrees around the start of the Truck race.

Sunday: Mostly sunny with a high of 92 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the Cup race.

Friday, June 2

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 1 – 8 p.m. Craftsman Truck Series
  • 4 – 9 p.m. Cup Series

Track activity

  • 6 – 6:30 p.m. — Truck practice (FS1)
  • 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. — Truck qualifying (FS1)

Saturday, June 3

Garage open

  • 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.  — Cup Series
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series

Track activity

  • 10 – 10:45 a.m. — Cup practice (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 10:45 a.m. – 12 p.m. — Cup qualifying  (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 1:30 p.m. — Truck race (160 laps, 200 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, June 4

Garage open

  • 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 3:30 p.m. — Cup race (240 laps, 300 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)


Portland International Raceway (Xfinity Series)

Weekend weather

Friday: Mostly sunny with a high of 77 degrees.

Saturday: Mostly sunny with a high of 73 degrees and no chance of rain around the start of the Xfinity race.

Friday, June 2

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 6-11 p.m. Xfinity Series

Saturday, June 3

Garage open

  • 10 a.m.  — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. — Xfinity practice (No TV)
  • 12 – 1 p.m. — Xfinity qualifying (FS1)
  • 4:30 p.m. — Xfinity race (75 laps, 147.75 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

NASCAR Cup playoff standings after Coca-Cola 600


The severe penalty to Chase Briscoe and his Stewart-Haas Racing team Wednesday for a counterfeit part dropped Briscoe from 17th to 31st in the season standings. Briscoe now must win a race to have a chance at the playoffs.

The penalty came a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for his retaliation in wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600. Elliott is 28th in the points. The 2020 Cup champion also needs to win to have a chance to make the playoffs.

Ten drivers have won races, including Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney. That leaves six playoff spots to be determined by points at this time. With 12 races left in the regular season, including unpredictable superspeedway races at Atlanta (July 9) and Daytona (Aug. 26), the playoff standings will change during the summer.

Among those without a win this season are points leader Ross Chastain and former champions Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Elliott.

Here’s a look at the Cup playoff standings heading into Sunday’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois. Drivers in yellow have won a race and are in a playoff position. Those below the red line after 16th place are outside a playoff spot in the graphic below.

NASCAR issues major penalties to Chase Briscoe team for Charlotte infraction


NASCAR fined crew chief John Klausmeier $250,000 and suspended him six races, along with penalizing Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team 120 points and 25 playoff points each for a counterfeit part on the car.

The issue was a counterfeit engine NACA duct, said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition. That is a single-source part.

MORE: Updated Cup playoff standings

The team stated that it accepts the L3 penalty.

“We had a quality control lapse and a part that never should’ve been on a car going to the racetrack ended up on the No. 14 car at Charlotte,” said Greg Zipadelli in a statement from the team. “We accept NASCAR’s decision and will not appeal.”

Asked how then piece could have aided performance, Sawyer said Wednesday: “Knowing the race team mentality, they don’t do things that would not be a benefit to them in some way, shape or form from a performance advantage.”

The penalty drops Briscoe from 17th in the season standings to 31st in the standings. Briscoe goes from having 292 points to having 172 points. He’ll have to win to make the playoffs. Briscoe has no playoff points at this time, so the penalty puts him at -25 playoff points should he make it.

Briscoe’s car was one of two taken to the R&D Center after Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 for additional tear down by series officials.

The penalty comes a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.