Bill Elliott is winning so many Winston Cup stock car races that he's looking for something else to conquer.
Today, he will be going for his eighth win in 15 NASCAR super-speedway races in the Firecracker 400 at Daytona Beach, Fla.--where he ran away with the Daytona 500 last February. On Saturday, he will move into a sports car, a Ford Mustang, and team with Lyn St. James in the Camel Continental, a three-hour race over the 3.37-mile road course at Watkins Glen, N.Y.
The race is part of the International Motor Sports Assn. Camel GT program. It will be the first sports car assignment for the drawling redhead from Dawsonville, Ga., who is sitting in for former Olympic decathlon champion Bruce Jenner, St. James' regular driving partner. Jenner has a TV assignment on Saturday.
"All I want to do is keep the car looking good for Jenner," Elliott said. "I'm sure Lyn will get us in good position, so hopefully if I keep out of trouble, we'll do OK. I haven't driven a Mustang on a course like Watkins Glen, but I've done pretty well with my Ford at Riverside (the only road course on the NASCAR Grand National circuit)."
Elliott's first NASCAR win was in the 1983 Winston Western 500 at Riverside. Last month he finished sixth in the Budweiser 400.
At Daytona--on the 2 1/2-mile high banked tri-oval--he is definitely the driver to beat. He was the fastest qualifier Tuesday in his Ford Thunderbird with a speed of 201.523 m.p.h., a tick quicker than fellow Ford driver Cale Yarborough, who clocked 201.270. The same two drivers sat on the front row for the Daytona 500, a race that Elliott won easily after the engine blew in Yarborough's car.
Today's race is the first in which Grand National cars must use a new restrictor plate on the carburetor in an effort to slow them down. Most observers felt the new rule was aimed at Elliott's Ford in hopes of making the General Motors cars more competitive, but in Tuesday's qualifying it didn't work that way.
Speeds were down about 4 m.p.h. from the Daytona 500 qualifying, as anticipated, but the front three in the Firecracker will be Fords. Next after Elliott and Yarborough was Ricky Rudd at 199.049 m.p.h.. The fastest of the others was defending Winston Cup champion Terry Labonte, the winner of last month's road race at Riverside. Labonte ran 199.001 in his Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
Darrell Waltrip, two-time NASCAR champion and the driver closest to Elliott in the points race, will start from the 19th position after a disappointing 195.627.
"There's Elliott and there's the rest of us," Waltrip moaned. "We ain't in the same class right now."
He is probably right. In the first 14 races, Elliott has sat on the pole six times, won seven times and collected $619,168. Coming at the end of the year is another $100,000 for winning two of the four designated "Winston Million" races and if he wins the Southern 500 at Darlington he would turn the hundred grand into $1 million.
SPRINT CARS--Defending Kraco-CRA champion Bubby Jones has a busy week planned. Last night he drove at Ascot Park in the Firecracker Fifty. Tonight and Friday night he will be at Baylands Raceway, near San Jose, for two winged sprint car shows, and Saturday night he will return to Ascot for another CRA main event. With Jones skipping a number of races and No. 1 rival Dean Thompson having missed early season races with an illness, the points lead has developed into a race among Eddie Wirth, who took the lead last week from Brad Noffsinger, and Mike Sweeney. Wirth has 1,058 points, Noffsinger 1,042 and Sweeney, who has 28 straight races with top ten finishes, next with 1,021. . . . Robby Unser, eldest son of former Indy 500 champion Bobby Unser, ran 11th in his World of Outlaws debut at Devil's Bowl in Oklahoma City. Sammy Swindell won at Devil's Bowl and a night later won his 100th Outlaws main event. Only Steve Kinser has won more. Third best is Doug Wolfgang with 53. The Outlaws will come West in September for races at Santa Maria Speedway and Ascot Park.
OFF ROAD--The fifth stop in the combined High Desert Racing Assn./SCORE International series, the 15th annual Fireworks 250, is Saturday at Barstow. More than 250 cars and trucks are expected to challenge the hot Mojave Desert course. The race--four loops of a 60-mile course outside of town--starts at 4 p.m. to avoid the early afternoon heat.
STOCK CARS--Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield has a $37,000 two-night open comp program Friday and Saturday. Jim Thirkettle, Jimmy Insolo, Dan Press and Rick Becker are among the 60 entries. Qualifying, heat races and a 50-lap street stock main event are Friday, with the 100 lap open comp finale Saturday night. . . . Former Figure 8 driver Don Wright Jr., who has not won a main event in this year's Curb Motorsports series, will carry the points lead into tonight's Independence Day show at Ascot Park. Wright's consistently high finishes have him four points ahead of defending track champion Ray Burns, a former New Zealander now living in Sun Valley. Burns and J. D. Wilson each have three wins. Also tonight will be a Figure 8 race, a demolition derby and a post-race fireworks display. . . . Saugus Speedway will hold a 150-lap factory stock enduro Saturday night, plus an Ego Challenge and a destruction derby. . . . Bakersfield Speedway has the season's only double points races Saturday night. . . . Super stocks race tonight at Cajon Speedway, followed by a 150-lap stock enduro Saturday night.
MOTORCYCLES--The Independence Cup, Friday night at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, will be an all-scratch program of 23 speedway cycle races. U. S. champion Kelly Moran, sidelined for two weeks after a spill at Carlsbad, will return to competition. . . . Steve Lucero and Sam Ermolenko resume their speedway rivalry tonight at Ascot's South Bay Stadium. . . . Randy Mamola of Santa Clara, three-time world road racing runner-up, is returning from Europe to ride July 14 in the 14th annual Champion Spark Plug 200 at Laguna Seca. Former three-time world champion Kenny Roberts is coming out of retirement to ride in that race.
MIDGETS--The U.S. Auto Club's western regional series, featuring former national champion and points leader Sleepy Tripp and veteran Wally Pankratz, shares billing Sunday night at Ascot Park with the SoCal Independent Drivers Assn. sprint buggies and mini-stocks.
NECROLOGY--Mel Kenealy, 82, who won the 1929 track championship at the old Legion Ascot Speedway, died last Saturday of a stroke at Doctor's Hospital in Lakewood. Kenealy, who also finished 17th in the 1930 Indianapolis 500, drove at Ascot from 1925 to 1936. Services will be at 11 a.m. Friday at the Sunnyside Mortuary, Long Beach.