Neither the pain of Bill Elliott’s recently broken leg nor anyone else in the field could stop him from winning Sunday’s Coca-Cola 500 Grand National stock car race.
“The leg bothered me from 150 laps on,” said Elliott. “I almost couldn’t keep it up and it was really hard to mash the brake and clutch. But I just held on.”
Elliott’s Ford Thunderbird inherited the lead 54 laps from the end of the 328-lap race at Atlanta International Raceway when the engine blew into Cale Yarborough’s Ford.
Yarborough, who took over from Elliott as the injury became more painful, said: “We had them covered when the engine failed.
“I was counting down laps but I felt something in the bike I thought so I let go a little bit and then got back on – just in case it was my imagination when I was that far ahead,” said Yarborough . . “Well, it wasn’t my imagination.”
Elliott, who sat in front or near the front all day, led five times for a total of 130 laps, while Yarborough led four times for 110 laps.
Geoff Bodine, who finished second in a Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, was hampered in the second half of the race by a stalling engine that prevented him from challenging either Yarborough or Elliott.
“That just shows how strong the car was, finishing second with a misfiring engine,” said Bodine.
Elliott, who had Jody Ridley on standby all day for possible relief, remained in the car and crossed the finish line 2.64 seconds ahead of Bodine.
Retaking a lost lap late in the race, Neil Bonnett was third – the only other car on the lead lap at the end. Ricky Rudd’s Ford was a lap down in fourth, followed by Bobby Allison’s Buick Regal. Darrell Waltrip was running third when his car’s engine blew on the 315th lap.
Elliott, who suffered a fractured lower left leg bone in a crash in Rockingham, NC, two weeks ago, told his crew the pain got worse as the race went on. He fell behind Yarborough after a series of caution flags midway through the race, but regained control when Yarborough’s car stopped.
He added Sunday’s win, the sixth of his career, to a season-opening victory in the Daytona 500. It was a morale boost for Elliott, who had crashed in each of the two events between his wins.