One of the most successful sponsorship names in NASCAR history will return to the sport for this weekend’s FireKeepers Casino 400 NASCAR Cup race at Michigan International Speedway.
Melling Performance, which evolved from the iconic Melling Racing, will be primary sponsor on Michael McDowell’s No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford Mustang.
Started by team patriarch Harry Melling in 1982, Melling Racing won the first “Winston Million” with NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott in 1985, Elliott set the NASCAR speed record of 212.809 mph at Talladega in 1987 and won the 1988 Winston Cup championship. Elliott would claim 34 of his 44 Cup career wins while driving under the Melling Racing banner.
Melling’s son Mark took over Melling Racing in 1999 (after Harry Melling passed away from a heart attack on May 29 that year) and continued to run the team until it closed after the 2002 season. Mark Melling now owns Melling Performance and Melling Engine Parts – which manufactures performance engine parts – and is located in Jackson, Michigan — less than 20 miles away from MIS.
“We’re thrilled to have an opportunity to get involved in NASCAR again,” Mark Melling said in a media release. “Teaming up with Michael and Front Row Motorsports gives us the chance to stay close to our racing roots while promoting our performance engine parts brand.”
McDowell is looking forward to having Melling sponsorship on his car.
“It’s so cool to have Melling on board this weekend,” McDowell said. “They have a long and rich history in the Cup series, so I’m excited that they’re getting involved again.
“To have the name ‘Melling’ on our car so close to their home base really means a lot.”
12 – Number of laps Kyle Busch needs to lead to pass Bill Elliott (267 laps) for most laps led in the All-Star Race.
12 – Cars competed in the first All-Star Race on May 25, 1985. There will be 19 cars in this year’s race.
7 – Drivers who have multiple wins in the All-Star Race (Johnson, 4; Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon, 3; Martin, Davey Allison, Terry Labonte and Kevin Harvick, 2)
5 – Poles Bill Elliott earned in the All-Star Race, the most all-time. Kyle Busch is the active leader with three.
4 – Times Sterling Marlin won the Monster Energy Open, the most all-time.
3 – Times Ken Schrader and Marlin finished runner-up in the All-Star Race, tied for the most all-time, without winning. Schrader competed in the race eight times and finished in the top five in six of them.
2 – Runner-up finishes by Brad Keselowski in the All-Star Race. He’s the active leader among drivers in top fives without an ASR win.
The spotlight is shining bright on Chase Elliott this week after he earned his first Cup win of 2019 Sunday at Talladega.
The win came at an ideal time for NASCAR on NBC’s Steve Letarte, who interviewed Elliott this week for his “Letarte on Location” podcast.
The interview took place in Elliott’s hometown of Dawsonville, Georgia, at the famous Dawsonville Pool Room.
They covered a number of topics in the 45-minute episode. Here are a few of them.
MEMORIES OF BILL ELLIOTT’S RACING CAREER
“Obviously, they’re scattered, right? At that age they’re scattered. When you’re a kid I think you recognize big moments and obviously you can tell when something’s special. I do have a couple memories of Indianapolis when he won the Brickyard (in 2002), because I just remember being absolutely amazed by … when you win there they used to take the cars up on this lift gate thing and I just thought that was the coolest thing ever. I remember that as a kid.
“The last one I remember, I remember him winning his last race (at Rockingham in 2003). A couple things about that I remember. He beat Jimmie (Johnson), which was pretty cool. Because Jimmie was getting started … He was obviously killing it. Came in and was having all this success and I remember all the hype around him and then just remember (Bill Elliott) beating him that day. Taking it to the young guy. I thought that was kind of cool. Victory lane was a lot of popcorn sponsor of some sort (Pop-Secret). They had popcorn. It was the car and it was popcorn. … I think I asked someone ‘Can I eat popcorn?’ So I’m sitting in victory lane eating the popcorn.”
(Former Cup Series owner James Finch kept tabs on Elliott during his late-model career when he raced at 5 Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida)
“I think (Finch) had a car or sponsored a car down there. He loves the Snowball Derby, loves Pensacola and going over there and racing. So was in front of him a lot.
“We’re there and I didn’t know this, but apparently he was taking notice of some of the good runs we had at that point in time. He mentioned something to Mr. (Rick) Hendrick and I think Mr. Hendrick kind of thought about it and felt like he might want to help. He gave dad a call one day and dad and I flew to Charlotte one afternoon after school, sat down. Boss picked us up from the airport personally, drove us over to the shop, toured us around at his facility, sat us down in his office. … He’s like ‘I don’t really know what’s next or … what the right move is, but I want to help. Who knows where this is going to go, but I just want to help. I think we can make something work.’ So that was really where everything really started and nothing was ever really promised, he just wanted to help and he expressed that and really opened the door for everything else after that to transpire.”
DIFFERENCE IN RACING THE No. 24 AND No. 9
“I said it then and I’ll say it now, I honestly didn’t put a lot of thought into (driving the No. 24), the number thing. It didn’t bother me. I don’t think it ever really felt like home. (When I started) racing go karts, I didn’t want to be the 24. I wanted to be the No. 9. … It didn’t feel like home from that standpoint, but it’s not something that concerned me. It doesn’t make you go faster or slower what’s on the side of the car. That was kind of my big thing in my head. It is what it is, let’s just go and try to do good. …
“To me (the No. 9) just feels right. I don’t know what it seems like to you. But like me walking out to the grid to get in the car, that’s my car.”
You can listen to the whole podcast below, including Elliott discussing his friendship with Ryan Blaney.
Bill Elliott adds to winning weekend for Elliott family