The Georgia Gang Were Kings Of The Beach


Awesome Bill From Dawsonville

Bill Elliott showed signs early on that he would be a strong competitor on Daytona's high banks. Photo courtesy the Andy Towler collection.

Bill Elliott made his first NASCAR Grand National start at Rockingham, North Carolina, in 1976.  He would finish 33rd after an oil pump failed on his family owned Ford.

Elliott’s first race at Daytona, however, came behind the wheel of Bill Champion’s Ford during the July race in 1976, where he finished 19th after starting 38th.

As time went on, the Dawsonville native and his hometown team seemed to have a knack for racing at Daytona.  IN 1977, the under funded team started ninth and finished eight in the Daytona 500, then returned in July for a ninth place finish in the Firecracker 400.

In 1979, they would record an 11th place finish in the July event.  In 1980, Elliott would finish 12th in both events.

In 1981, things started changing for the Elliott team.  With sponsorship from Harry Melling’s Mell-Gear, the family owned team finished sixth in the Daytona 500.  In 1982, with the team now being owned by Melling, Elliott came home fifth in the 500 and ran second in the July race to veteran racer Bobby Allison.

In 1983, the Melling owned Elliott team ran the full NASCAR Grand National schedule for the first time.  Right out of the box, they showed they were ready.  Elliott ran second in the Daytona 500, coming out of a three wide scramble for the position behind winner Cale Yarborough.  Elliott finished seventh in the Firecracker 400 in July.

By the end of the season, Elliott and his team had won their first ever event on the road course at Riverside, California.

Elliott continued to turn in strong runs at Daytona in 1984, with a fifth place in the 500 and a sixth place in the Firecracker.  During the season, he and his team recorded three victories, at Michigan, Charlotte and Rockingham.

All during this time, the Ford teams were trying to find a way to beat the engines built by Waddell Wilson and piloted by veteran driver Cale Yarborough.  Some of the strongest minds and deepest pockets in NASCAR were looking for a way to defeat the strong pairing.

Who would have ever thought the team to do it would come out of tiny Dawsonville, Georgia?

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