Bill Elliott, Richard Petty will pace field of Southern 500 to celebrate milestones

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Two career milestones will be recognized at the Southern 500 when Bill Elliott and Richard Petty pace the field before the Sept. 3 race at Darlington Raceway on NBCSN.

Elliott will drive the pace car for the race 32 years after he clinched one of the biggest achievements of his Cup career and NASCAR history in the Southern 500.

In 1985, Elliott became the first driver to win the “Winston Million” after he won the Daytona 500, the Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway and then the Southern 500. Jeff Gordon in 1997 was the only other driver to win the “Winston Million” promotion before it was discontinued.

Elliott tamed the “Lady in Black” five times in his career, sweeping the 1985 races.

But Elliott won’t be at the front of the field. That distinction will go to “The King.”

Petty, who just celebrated his 80th birthday, will lead Elliott and the field in a 1967 Plymouth like the one he won the Southern 500 with that year. Petty swept the two Darlington races that season.

Of Petty’s 200 Cup Series wins, three came at Darlington. But only one of those was in the Southern 500.

“The 1967 Southern 500 was a great win,” Petty said in a Darlington press release. “To be able to win at Darlington, especially in those days, was really special. The Southern 500 was, and still is, one of the great races in our sport.”

The honoring of Petty and Elliott joins the recognition that will be given to Dale Earnhardt Sr. the day before the race.

The 30th anniversary of Earnhardt’s 1987 win in the Southern 500 will be observed with a special event titled, An Evening Honoring Dale Earnhardt Sr.

“We’re honored to have two of NASCAR’s greatest legends, Richard Petty and Bill Elliott, pace the field for the 68th running of the Bojangles’ Southern 500,” Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp said in the press release. “Their accomplishments in our sport and at Darlington will be celebrated during our throwback weekend and we are excited that our fans will have the opportunity to see these two NASCAR heroes lead the field to green.”

This is the third year of Darlington’s throwback weekend program, which is highlighted by teams using retro paint schemes.

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