It was just the first of several triumphs for the Elliott led Georgia Gang at Daytona over the 15 years.
The most astounding moment may well have come during SpeedWeeks of 1987, when Elliott’s T-Bird sat on the Daytona 500 pole at a mind-bending speed of 210.364 mph, five miles an hour faster than his pole speeds the previous two years.
Elliott would go on to win his second Daytona 500 the next week after Geoff Bodine ran out of fuel late in the event.
In all, Elliott would win 11 events at Daytona between 1985 and 2000. That includes two Daytona 500 victories, two Firecracker 400 wins, two IROC wins, four Daytona 500 qualifying race victories and a class win in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in 1987, piloting a Mustang for Jack Roush.
Bill Elliott and his family, along with what started as a ragtag bunch from Dawsonville, Georgia, for a crew, brought the Georgia Gang back to the forefront at Daytona.
“That was most awesome,” said Dan Elliott, Bill’s brother and a member of the Melling crew during several of those events. Dan was the transmission man for the team, as well as working over the wall.
Dan said that the history of the Georgia Gang at the Daytona never entered their minds at the time, but looking back, it makes the accomplishments that much better.
“You can’t even fathom what it feels like to go back, and to this day, it’s almost as if it’s a dream. It would be probably a decade before I would realize what being in victory lane at Daytona would really mean. You’re there, you’re in the excitement, and the adrenaline is pumping. You now you’re in victory lane, but you’re already thinking about next week and what you have to do.”
Bill, Ernie, and Dan Elliott, with their team from little Dawsonville, Georgia, did more than just win at Daytona. They reminded the world of the drivers that came from the Peach State that had come before them.
That in itself is a great accomplishment.