Talladega Superspeedway is big part of the Elliott family’s history and this weekend marks the anniversary of one of its most iconic moments.
Thirty years ago, Bill Elliott set the NASCAR record for fastest qualifying average with a speed of 212.809 mph qualifying for the Winston 500. It’s a mark that stands today.
The top qualifying speed in the last two Cup races at Talladega were 193.423 mph and 192.661 mph.
Elliott’s son, Chase Elliott, showed up to the 2.66-mile track Friday with a special set of shoes to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the event.
The shoes resemble the Coors Light paint scheme Bill Elliott drove during his time with Melling Racing in the 1980s. The pair has the car’s No. 9 on it as well the slogan “World’s Fastest Car.”
“I’m really excited about them,” Chase Elliott said Friday. “I would take them off and show you but it would take me a minute to get them off. … That car, he still has a few of his Coors cars in the shop and I always think it’s cool to look at them and see how they were built, what they put into them and just how simple everything was.”
Bill Elliott won at Talladega twice in 1985 and 1987 while also claiming six straight poles. His first win in 1985 was the biggest come from behind victory in NASCAR history.
His Talladega record came three months after he set the record at Daytona with a speed of 210.364 mph.
“At Talladega you don’t feel the speed like you do at Daytona because of the transitions and tightness of the corners,” the NASCAR Hall of Famer said in a release from Ford. “Talladega was built for those speeds and the transitions were so much easier. You picked up the bank before you got to the corner at Talladega while Daytona was totally the opposite, you kind of ran in the corner before you picked up all of the banking.”
The 1988 Cup champion said one of the keys to make his No. 9 Ford – or any other car – a rocket ship was in how the rear spoiler was handled.
“You still had to do everything you could to make the car really uncomfortable to run fast,” Bill Elliott said. “There were guys over there before qualifying taking the rear spoilers off, but you couldn’t drive them. You had to have a little bit of downforce or you couldn’t drive them, so you just had to get to that point where you took as much off as you could and still be able to make it around the race track.”
“Awesome Bill” said his qualifying mark put an “exclamation point” on his families’ legacy in the sport.
“We came out of nothing,” Elliott said. “We came out of a little town in Dawsonville, Georgia that wasn’t even on the map. We were kind of like David and Goliath with what we did and what we accomplished.”
The record remains in place in part to NASCAR’s restrictor plates that rob engines of horsepower.
But would Chase Elliott, who has three poles – all at restrictor plate tracks, including one at Talladega – be willing to drive his father’s record-setting car for a few hot laps?
“I don’t know that I can handle it,” the 2016 Cup Rookie of the Year said. “I would definitely try, I would love to give it a shot. But I don’t know I have what it takes to hold it wide open. That’s not easy, back then. They laid the spoiler back and I remember dad telling me stories. They’d basically keep leaning it back until he couldn’t take it anymore. That’s how they figured out when to stop. Kept pushing the limit until he couldn’t drive it, which is pretty cool, really.”
The car Bill Elliott set the record with was donated to the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Michigan, by team owner Harry Melling. Like the record in the history books, that’s where it remains today.