Foes team to leave Elliott in 4th place Gordon, Labonte, Craven make his bid 'dead meat'


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Bill Elliott's Ford lost its clutch early in yesterday's Daytona 500, but it wasn't the clutch that prevented him from winning his second Daytona 500.

It was the three-car team of race winner Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte and Ricky Craven.

"Whenever Jeff, Terry and Ricky hooked up, I was history," said Elliott, who came home fourth to post his best finish since the Sept. 25, 1994, race at Martinsville, Va. "I was history, dead meat and I knew it. I was just a sitting duck there at the end."

But he was a pleased sitting duck.

A year ago, Elliott missed seven races after breaking his leg in the Winston 500, and finished 30th in the Winston Cup points race.

"Nobody ever dreamed we would have as good a Daytona 500 as we had," Elliott said. "That's the most positive way I've started the year in a long, long time. I guess it's more satisfying than winning in 1987, because I'm driving for my own team now."

Elliott, 41, thought he could have held on for the victory, if he could have gotten Dale Earnhardt and Gordon racing against each other.

"If that would have happened, I'd have been home free," he said. "But when Dale wrecked and those three Hendrick cars got together, I didn't have a chance. It was just a matter of when and where. One went high and one went low, I was just amazed I came back to finish fourth. But I had a good car out there and it feels good to be back."

Pressley's wild ride

Just 10 laps into the race, Robert Pressley made contact with Labonte, got airborne and turned a nose-to-ground pirouette and then, somehow, landed on all four wheels.

Pressley climbed from the car, but was taken to Halifax Medical Center for a CAT scan after complaining of lower back pain. Tests were negative and he was released.

The car, relatively undamaged, went back into the race under the guidance of Todd Bodine. "We'll just get Robert as many points as we can," said Bodine, who brought the car home 39th.

Waltrip creeps up

Darrell Waltrip benefited from the misfortune of others and his own determination. Waltrip, who is celebrating his 25th year in racing, started 22nd, ran off the pace much of the afternoon, but wound up 10th as his team kept improving his car and two accidents over the last 10 laps moved him up.

"My crew kept working on the car until they got it right," he said. "It's really nice starting 10th in points."

Happy 30th

Driver Dave Marcis was running in his 30th Daytona 500 with an engine borrowed from Richard Childress Racing, and doing fine, until Bobby Hamilton and Johnny Benson Jr. collided in turn four, starting a 10-car crash involving Marcis with three laps to go.

But the veteran kept his car running and made it to the end for a 17th-place finish.

"I'm real happy," said Marcis. "We finished on the lead lap and 17th ain't too shabby for a 55-year-old guy."

Wallace silenced

All of Rusty Wallace's talk prior to the 500 didn't do him any good. His car's engine, which had been so strong during preparation for the race, blew to pieces on Lap 47.

"The car was running real good," Wallace said sadly. "It got a real bad push early on and I was going to come in and get that fixed. We were just a couple of short laps from doing that, but something in the motor broke."

He finished 41st.


Injured when the hood from Ernie Irvan's car flew into the grandstands were Edward W. Suders, 42, of Chambersburg, Pa., who fractured his forearm, and George Ray Anderson, 44, of Chase City, Va., who bruised his knee. Pole-sitter Mike Skinner finished 12th. Robby Gordon, who is competing against Skinner for Rookie of the Year, finished 16th. A record 23 cars finished on the lead lap.

Pub Date: 2/17/97

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