Affectionately known as “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” by his legion of fans, Bill Elliott will cement the town’s status in motorsports history when he is inducted into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame Friday night in Charlotte.
“It isn’t about me,” Elliott said. "It’s about all the people from that area that grew with us, that watched us, that helped us, that supported us, all of the above. It should be about everyone involved.
“They’re the ones, those guys around there did a lot of hard work and sacrificed a lot to help me get to the next level. It’s us, it’s we, it’s what we collectively did as a group.”
It was inside a small shop on Hwy. 183, now renamed Elliott Family Parkway, that it all started. Like his brothers Ernie and Dan, Bill's passion for racing was instilled by his father George Elliott, whose Dahlonega Ford Sales dealership backed the family’s racing effort.
George Elliott once said he got his boys into racing because he “wanted them to stay away from the back roads.
“If they were going to be driving fast, I wanted them to do it in the right place,” he said.
Bill Elliott went on to earn 44 series victories, including two Daytona 500 wins and a record four consecutive first-place finishes at Michigan International Speedway. He also holds the track records for fastest qualifying speed at Daytona and Talladega.
The 1988 Winston Cup Champion said the contacts his father had in the early days of NASCAR were a driving force in the family’s success.
“Daddy was always kind of looking for the guy that was willing to work and put in the effort,” he said. “He knew a lot of the guys that were instrumental in starting NASCAR back in the day, and it evolved with so many people from that area that put their own cars together from the moonshine side.”
Charlie Hill, who started out sweeping floors in the shop when he was 15, was part of Bill Elliott’s championship-winning crew.
“It was the best time of my life. We were traveling and being successful. Some guys never do get on the winning crew …but I was fortunate because of who I was with,” he said. “We won a lot of races. Timing is crucial, and they hit it at the right time.”
After spending a nearly 30-year career working in the racing industry with the Elliotts, Hill retired last year.
On Friday night, he’ll be in Charlotte with several members of the crew to watch the teamwork celebrated as their champion driver is inducted into the sport’s hall of fame.
“Because of what Bill did through the 80s, that raised the bar and made all the other teams go to work harder and raised the level of competition to what it is now,” he said. “I was fortunate to be part of it.”
Bill Elliott was at the top of the leaderboard when NASCAR announced its 2015 Hall of Fame class of inductees last summer. He’ll be inducted along with Wendell Scott, Joe Weatherly, Rex White and Fred Lorenzen.
The 16-time most popular driver had been considered a frontrunner for inclusion since NASCAR made rule changes that allow any driver that competed for 30 years eligible for induction, as well as drivers that have reached their 55th birthday.
In his first year of eligibility, Bill Elliott secured more than 87 percent of the vote and was in Charlotte at the hall of fame when his name was called as the first new inductee May 21.
“It was a special day. I’m one of the luckier ones that was able to experience these moments firsthand and understand what it’s all about, but unlike my mother, dad, Harry Melling, Benny Parsons, that helped me and mentored me,” he said. “Unfortunately, they’re not around. That’s the sad side of it, but yet you know, its legacy will continue to go on.”
That legacy lives on with the champ’s son Chase Elliott, who exploded onto the NASCAR scene in 2014 when he won three races, most popular driver, rookie of the year and what is now known as the Xfinity Series championship in his first year of contention.
That success revitalized Dawsonville as a hub for NASCAR activity once again, just as it was when his dad was dominating the sport in the late 80s.
“That nucleus in Dawsonville has been so supportive of us ... and I think with what has gone on with Chase has really rejuvenated and really brought everything back to that area,” Bill Elliott said.
“The community has a lot to be proud of, especially the amount of good racers that’s come out of that area and all the good things that it’s brought to the county.”