By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott had a topsy turvy afternoon in his return, salvaging a 20th place finish after being involved in two incidents during Saturday’s Johnsonville 180 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
After getting out his yellow striped red No. 23 ISM Connect Chevrolet, it was all smiles for Elliott, with a little humor along the way.
“I feel like I hit everything but the the lottery,” said Elliott. “It was a great day. I’d like to thank Xfinity and all the guys, ISM Connect, and Maury (Gallagher, car owner of GMS Racing) for everything they did today.”
Elliott critiqued his performance and felt some corners at the 4-mile circuit proved difficult than others, notably the carousel.
“It was a heck of a lot of fun. I just felt like I needed more through (Turns) 9 and 10, the carousel, to carry any speed through there. I just felt like I gave up too much in three. I was not bad in 5-8,” said Elliott.
“It seemed like the carousel, I got a little free down in 11, but all-in-all, it was a good day. I enjoyed it. I had a good time.”
The 62-year-old legend matched his car number on the starting grid, with a goal of finishing in the top-15 as it marked his first national series start since Daytona in 2012.
That all changed early when Brandon Jones got hit from behind in Turn 3, causing a chain reaction which Elliott locked up the brakes, and ran into the back of Brian Henderson’s No. 38 Friends of Jaclyn Foundation Chevrolet.
The contact damaged the nose and hood of his car, forcing him to pit, and the crew were able to repair the car and returned in the 45-lap contest. Elliott finished 31st in Stage 1.
Over the radio, Elliott said the incident with Henderson wasn’t the way he wanted to start his race. He would have a quiet second stage, which saw him crossing the line in 22nd.
Then pit strategy later saw Elliott staying out and restarting in 12th, seeking the opportunity to gain more track position. Despite a taped up hood, “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” worked his way up to seventh, but it was short lived as he had to make his routine stops to make it on fuel.
Then with 7 to go, Elliott restarted in 17th after staying out, but spun out into the grass. He got his car straightened out, and had to settle for 20th in his first Xfinity Series start since Memphis in 2005.
The 1988 Cup Series champion noted that his son, Chase Elliott, who spotted for him, didn’t help him enough and warned him what’s next.
“He didn’t say much,” said Elliott. “He didn’t help me enough. Obviously, he needs to do a better job because next time, I’m going to put him in the car.”