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Bill Elliott: Thanks so much August 8, 2008

Posted by claireblang in Drivers, Fun Stuff, NASCAR.
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Claire B.log – Saturday, August 9 08
Awesome Bill Discussion:

Hey all!

Bill Elliott was the topic of an email that I received recently – and the email impressed me so much that I read it on the air and it created some discussion that provoked a flurry of emails. Here’s the email that kicked it all off: I’d love your feedback on the emails at the bottom, so read on:

Email from Jay :

Hey Claire B.

I’ve got an interesting show idea for you. What about Ray Evernham’s promise to Bill Elliott that when he ran his last race, it would be in the number 9?

You know, with all of the attention Dale Jarrett got in the early part of the year, it is unfathomable to me that Bill has been literally forgotten by the media this season, especially since he announced that this was his final year. No offense to Jarrett, but Bills career credentials trump Jarrett’s, as do his many, many Most Popular Driver awards. Yet Jarrett was treated like a true legend, which I have no problem with. Jarrett had a great
career and deserves to be recognized. But let’s face facts- Bill Elliott single handedly turned mainstream America on to Nascar during his record setting year of 1985. With the exception of Dale Earnhardt Jr., nobody in the sport has even come close to the kind of fan
following that Bill has had over the years.

Back to the Ray Evernham part- Ray clearly said several years back that when Bill decided to step away, the number 9 was his to run in that last race. And everyone agrees certain numbers are synonymous with certain drivers…Richard Petty in the #43; Dale Earnhardt in the #3, Cale Yarborough in the #11, David Pearson in the 21 car. And while it has been quite the historical moment to see Bill run for the legendary Wood Brothers 21 just like his idol David Pearson did, ANYONE with a historical perspective knows who made the number 9 famous- and it wasn’t Kasey Kahne.

That being said, in an era where more and more longtime fans seemingly get pushed aside to make way for the new generation of fans, where has the loyalty in Nascar gone? It has become a game of “How much money can you spend?” and that is not the foundation that Nascar was built on. Nascar claims that they want to get back to their roots. But the
truth is, with the influx of mega-teams created by Rick Hendrick and Jack Roush, there is no way possible to recreate what made the early days of Nascar so magical. It just frustrates me as a longtime fan to see my lifelong hero and idol, Bill Elliott, turned into another also
ran by the media and by Nascar. Granted, Bill and the Wood Brothers have had a terrible season that has them fighting to even make most races. But at least give the man that has given so much of himself as an ambassador to the sport the respect of letting him finish out his career as it began- in a number 9 race car. And I understand in an age of 20 million dollar sponsor deals, a company like Budweiser may balk at running Kasey Kahne in a different number for one race. But Bill has earned the right to run that number one final time, and if anyone should know the type of person Elliott is, it would be Budweiser, whom
Bill drove for from 1992-94 for Junior Johnson, and was 2 laps away from winning them a championship over Alan Kulwicki.

Thanks for taking the time to read.

Jay C.
Newnan, Georgia

After I aired the reading of the email above – I began to get calls – a lot of calls. I also got emails like the ones below:

Email from Wes:

Claire B,

First of all, thank you for reading that email sent in by a listener regarding Bill Elliott and Ray’s promise to him.

On the day Bill Elliott decides it’s going to be his last race, he will drive the No. 9.” – Ray Evernham

How good is someone giving you their “word” nowadays? I remember hearing this and seeing it posted in the following months after Bill Elliott announced he would be driving part-time. I recall thinking to myself, “that’s going to be a fine day when Bill drives the #9 for the final time”. A legend.. one of the good ol’ boys.. the Fastest Man Alive.. Million Dollar Bill.. Awesome Bill from Dawsonville and his final drive in the #9!

Bill stood next what was left of his 2003 Dodge Intrepid. It’s rear quarter panel torn open like a soda can after a dog had gnawed on it all afternoon. His right foot pressed up against the exhaust trying to choke out the fire. A few minutes ago he was coming out of turn 2 on the final lap with the lead. We all saw the rear of the car wobble to the right and got that sickening feeling in the pit of our stomachs. For months on end before this race the media would ask Bill when he was going to retire. Bill would shine his pearly whites and give us his old famous line, “we’ll just have to wait and see”. We waited, and we saw Bill standing next to his “ole piece” he delivered the words to us that he would be back. Elliott fans all around rejoiced!

Bill’s definition of being back and my definition got somewhat tangled up. I thought he would be back in the #9. Bill and Ray layed out a semi-retirement plan that seemed ample at first, but waned as funding wasn’t always there for Bill to run in competitive equipment. It became a guessing game as to when we would see the next time that Bill would race. Over the next 4 years we would see Bill in the 91, 98, 00, 83, 39, 19, 21. Bill fans would hear of a race he was scheduled to be in only to show up at the track to see someone else in his car. It got harder and harder to follow our 16 time MPD.

For me the breaking point was watching Bill fail to make the field for the 2008 Daytona 500. The salt in the wound was failing to qualify at the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (Bill’s home track). It became evident to me that Bill’s services provided through his Past Champions Provisional would no longer be needed when Dale Jarrett decided to to do a parade lap during qualifying. With the Petty’s struggling and Sam Hornish teeter-tottering the top 35, Bobby Labonte and Kurt Busch become hotter commodities than Bill. So us Elliott fans sat around hoping qualifying gets rained out so could make the show. We wonder when will be Bill’s last race.
I started reading old Bill headlines when I came across Ray Evernham’s promise. It brought me back to that day when I remembered thinking how cool it would be to see Bill in the #9, one last time. I imagine Bill holding onto one of his PCP’s for the fall Atlanta race. I imagine Ray Everhnam honoring his promise. I imagine Budweiser Beer sponsoring a Dodge with the #9 on the side. I imagine Dan, Ernie and Bill standing next to the car for a photo. I imagine George Elliott and Harry Melling smiling down. At the beginning of 2008 NASCAR president Brian France proclaimed that NASCAR needs to get back to its roots. Is there anything rooted deeper than Bill Elliott driving the #9?

I created this petition to show Ray that we remember his promise to Bill. We ask that Bill’s fans get our one last chance to see our racing hero in the car he made famous.
by, Wes Eisenschenk
http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/billelliott.html
irAnd more – this from Travis in Oklahoma:

Email from Travis:

So what about Ray Evernham letting Bill Elliott drive the #9 for the last race? Where is all the attention to Bill’s final race year on the circuit this year? Where is the media with him like they were with Dale Jarrett? There seems to be a total lack of respect for this man who help put nascar on the map and who’s fan base was as large as bill himself winning the most popular driver award what 14 times maybe? I don’t know, but I hope you could clear some things up Claire. Your the biggest sweetheart in Nascar right now and I don’t know how empty my life would be with out listening you and being a part of my day 5 days a week. Love the show Claire and thank you for all the thankless hard work.

Travis Turney

I knew the only possible fair thing that I could do was to go and find Bill Elliott and ask him personally what he thought about all of this. Elliott has been helping the Wood Brothers by driving the 21 car for them when they need him – and has started a driver development business in which he will mentor and assist young drivers. “Paying it forward,” is what Elliott is doing these days.

Claire B.: What is your plan as far as racing? Are you not done after this year. Some fans think that you are just kind of kind of quietly going out into the sunset and I wonder if you think that is what you are doing?

Elliott: “Well some days I think I wonder. You know right now I have a good opportunity to drive the #21 Wood Brothers car and it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been kinda looking pretty hard at saying this is my last year of doing this mess and trying to focus on this other stuff, cause it’s hard to do both. It’s hard to do everything you need to do and concentrate on both deals. I think it’s almost like Mark thought – you either need to be in it or out of it and I guess that’s the decision that I need to make. But you know right now I’ve got so many other things going on that it’s hard to be in it 100% and you know …looking at the thing realistically – looking at the Wood Brothers and where they are at being a single entity we need to try to get help us grow back and get back to where they need to be. You know every time we come into these places – just like coming to Pocono (last weekend) we changed a lot of stuff – a lot of things are different – we got no practice (Saturday) so we didn’t have the last race of running well. They had a different guy here with Andretti and Andretti did a great job…and they brought David Hyder in and now we’ve turned around to a totally different direction. They have good ideas but it’s a whole growing experience and when you don’t have other teams to build off of and grow off of. I know you hear a lot of people say that but it’s just a simple fact of what racing has become today….”

Claire B: – I had an email from Travis and he was up on the wheel about Bill Elliott and he was furious. He said that Ray Evernham had promised that when you were done your last race would be in the #9 did he make that promise to you?

Elliott: “I don’t really recall – I was hoping that my last race would be with Evernham but it just didn’t work out. What my ideal situation would have been – when I said at the end of 03 I wanted to stop running all races – I wanted to focus on a 15-18 race schedule – well we fell short of that. Then, we got to kind of floating around there and I mean it got to be where it was only just a couple of races. Then I got with Michael and did a few races and with some other guys kind of back and forth and that’s hard to do too. You needed some consistency. You take anything you know about this sport – having people around you and keeping that consistency is probably 75% of the game……it always has to do with the nucleus around you. Look at Jeff Gordon and the ups and downs he’s had. It always has to do with the nucleus around them. You know he’ll go through a period where he ran well with Ray (Evernham) then Ray left and it took them a little bit of time to get sorted back out and it’s been a kind of up and down roller coaster. But you take the guys that have been most successful there’s always a key nucleus that has stayed with them and stayed behind them. I think that is probably the most important part of this sport and I think that’s what most people fail to realize.”

Claire B: Do you feel that – as the emailer wrote- that for a man who put NASCAR on the map who was the most popular driver so many times – that the media is not giving you the farewell or giving you the attention right now that you deserve. That unless you don’t make the show they hardly even interview you and that they gave Dale Jarrett so much more attention. How does Bill Elliott feel?

Elliott: “Well I feel fine. The thing that I look at is that Dale Jarrett had UPS and UPS’s push behind him. That makes a lot of difference. When UPS pays a lot of the tabs within the business and they can put the Ads and put the PR out there that is different than where I am here today where I’m just running a limited schedule with what I am doing – you can put out big press releases and do a lot of stuff. You know we are kind of out here on Gilligan’s Island doing out own little thing and you know you’re so easily forgotten. I don’t get upset about it – I don’t worry about it. It’s not good for the fans though because I still have fans that want to know what’s going on – whether you are running 51st out of a 43 car field I mean they still kind of want to know what’s going on. That’s what I have always said that I get up on my soap box about in this sport is that they don’t cover everybody within the sport. Which is like – we’ll pick these guys and that’s all we’ll talk about and I’ve always said that.”

Claire B: If you decide that next year you are not going to race – do you want a big good bye at the end of this year?

Elliott: “Well that I don’t know. That is I will take out here in the next little bit. But I am in such a different perspective as some of these other guys. It’s just like Mark (Martin) and Terry (Labonte) – they did their big farewells and here they are back again and I don’t understand that. You know do what you say and say what you do you know and that’s the thing that I look at. I’ve never said I was quitting up to this point and I’m looking very hard at calling it the end at the end of this year because I don’t really know where I want to be next year other than trying to help these guys.”

Claire B: “So in essence Bill Elliott, the man who helped to build this sport, is helping young drivers and helping a struggling race team – is that where you want to be?”

Elliott: “Well why not. If I can help these guys to get to the next level – then I’ve done something well. Even if they take only one thing out of what I tell them – through this whole deal. If I can help them get through a few hard times or help them get through this or whatever – I’ve either been there or I have seen it in this sport and I don’t know how many people I’ve seen come and go. Granted I look back on my career and maybe I wasn’t the best driver at a lot of places but I worked harder than most of the guys. I had that extra determination to get to the next level. When we got that door cracked open – a toe was in there , then a foot was in there then we finally got in there and go to the next level.”

I want to ask the guys this. When was the last time a team outside the state of North Carolina won a championship. I can’t answer that – I don’t know. You need to research that and find out. We were in Georgia in 88 and I can’t think of anybody since then that has bee out of North Carolina and has won a championship.”

Claire B: What do you want to tell your fans?

Elliott: “Well I just want to say how much we appreciate the sport over the years and all the stuff that has happened. I’ve said this a thousand times – if my career ended three or four years ago I’ve had a great career. I’ve done virtually everything within this sport. Granted, I only won one championship but we’ve won Daytona we won Indy, we won a lot of the races in the middle there – and we’ve had a good career. It’s the point of – and the next generation is coming regardless of what we about it and it’s going to continue on. That’s just evolution – we live to die and then there’s another group that is going to come along. That’s the key thing is if we try to live back in the past – yea I had my hay day but so did a lot of other people. Richard (Childress) went through his hay day and Cale (Yarborough) went through his hay day and so on and so forth.

You are going to have these guys today who are going to have their hay day but what are they go to do when they realize their hay day is gone and what are they going to do after that? I think that’s the key thing is that you look at all the fans and appreciate all the support and just be thankful for all the friends that you have created around the country and I think that is the biggest thing that has helped me within this sport.”

Claire B.: If you never close the door then you could come back for a one off race next year and you never really have to make that decision or do you have to decide?

Elliott: “Well there’s going to eventually be a point that you say hey this is it I am going to quit this and I’m going to go do something else whether you go play with your dirt car. I don’t intend to just totally quit driving. You know like Rusty (Wallace) he just totally cold quit and I don’t know – if that’s the decision that you make We were somewhere one day and I tried to get him to get into something and he wouldn’t even do that. It was just a hobby car somewhere and we were just playing around. I raced a few Legends races just to help understand how those cars are and I’ve raced some dirt stuff. I feel like if I can be the racer that these guys (his young development drivers) are when I started in I would have won a lot more races than I did. As well as total races run when I started running cup it’s so few versus these kids today come up and they’ve already run 100 or so races their first year.”

Claire B. So you are doing ok- you are going to make your decision some day. You have these young development drivers coming up including your son. You are not angry at anybody for not covering you more but in general you think the sport should be covered better.

Elliott: “Totally – I am not talking about necessarily me but everybody within the sport. There are fans from all the way down the list from the guy running in the back to the guy running in the front. I mean maybe it isn’t so obvious to the people on the network and really I don’t know the inner workings of a lot of stuff but I understand it and I understand how it works and I understand that’s probably the way that it’s going to be but still the guys in the back deserve a little bit of attention now and then.”

————————————————————–
Poll: Bill Elliott is contemplating what to do about his future. Right now he’s concentrating on “Paying it forward” running for the Wood Brothers and working on his new young driver development program. What should Elliott do?

Elliott should:

NO…not another retirement tour – Don’t do it for any reason

Bill Elliott has earned a farewell – Give the man what he deserves

Stay – don’t even think about retiring race when you can

It’s up to Bill Elliott and the fans will go the direction he decides to go and what makes sense for him – either way is fine.

That’s it for now. More later in the weekend.

Claire B
XM Satellite Radio

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