Elliott's win is his second in a row
Monday, August 5, 2002
INDIANAPOLIS -- He's "Awesome Bill" again.
Bill Elliott passed Rusty Wallace 12 laps from the end, then held him off on a restart with four laps to go Sunday on the way to a victory in the Brickyard 400.
It was the second straight win for the 46-year-old Elliott, whose career was rejuvenated last year by new car-owner Ray Evernham. Elliott, who earned the nickname "Awesome Bill from Dawsonville (Ga.)" during the 1980s, was dominating in Sunday's 160-lap event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
He was a struggling driver-owner late in 2000 when Evernham, the longtime and very successful crew chief for Jeff Gordon, bought Elliott's team and hired him as a driver for his new Evernham Motorsports team. Elliott responded by finishing 15th in the 2001 season points and ending a 226-race winless streak late in the year.
"I look back and feel like I've had a second chance at life," Elliott said. "Every bit of the struggles and trials and tribulations I went through in the '90s, I'm glad I stuck through it."
An emotional victory
Evernham was choked up and had tears in his eyes for a while after the race.
Later he praised Elliott and crew chief Mike Ford, saying, "You dream about days like this. Mike had a plan coming here and it was something everybody knew would work for Bill.
"I feel like a parent today," Evernham added. "When I won here as a crew chief, it was all mechanical. Today, it was overwhelming to know how happy it would make Bill and what it meant to Mike."
Elliott led 93 laps on the way to his 43rd career victory. Still, he found himself fifth after the final pit stop by the leaders on lap 130.
No problem for the red No. 9 Dodge on this day.
The green flag came out again on lap 134 and the 1988 Winston Cup champion was third by lap 137. He took second from pole-winner Tony Stewart on lap 139 and quickly chased down Wallace, another former series champion.
Stewart, a former Indy-car star who raced in the 500 five times, fell to 12th. The Indiana native, who has had problems with his anger in the past, punched a photographer several times after the race and didn't talk to reporters. A NASCAR spokesman said the incident will be investigated to determine if Stewart will be penalized.
It took Elliott some time to set up Wallace's Ford for the pass, but he finally pulled it off with apparent ease coming off turn two on lap 149.
Elliott moved steadily ahead, beating the runner-up to the finish line by 1.269 seconds -- about 15 car-lengths. The winner, who started second in the 43-car field, averaged 125.033 mph and won $449,056.