Bill Elliott came to his home track having already won the 1985 NASCAR season-opening event in Daytona, but he failed to finish in the top-20 places in each of the next two races because of on-track incidents.
The Georgia native was still a new face in NASCAR at the time, having won just four races in the previous two seasons. He was also an outsider, basing his racing business from his hometown garage in Dawsonville when his competition was in the Charlotte area.
Elliott entered the 1985 Coca-Cola 500 at Atlanta International Raceway as another up-and-coming driver, but he left as a hometown hero. “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” would start from the third position and led a dominant 129 laps, including the final 54, in route to his first win at his home track.
The early season wins marked the beginning of a breakout season for Elliott, who would go on to tally 11-total wins that season to finish second in the points standings. The Georgia native would win eight additional races before returning to Atlanta for the year’s penultimate event, the Atlanta Journal 500.
Elliott again started from the third position in the second Atlanta race and shot to the lead by lap 11. Again proving dominant, Elliott led 175 laps before claiming the 11th victory of his breakout season.
“I guess there is something to be said for home cooking and something to be said for being close to him, which he was, so maybe he felt more comfortable here,” said Furman Bisher, sport editor of The Atlanta Journal at the time. “But he wasn’t just winning here; he was winning all over the place.”
Elliott’s 1985 sweep at Atlanta, only the second in the track’s history, preceded a dominant run by the driver at his hometown track. From 1985 through 1992, Elliott would win six races in Atlanta, tied for third most in Atlanta Motor Speedway’s history. Notable among those victories, Elliott won the 1986 Winston in Atlanta and also took top honors in the fabled 1992 Hooters 500, completing his second season sweep in Atlanta.
“The fan who labored all week could really relate to Elliott. He was a hands-on, blue-collar racer,” said Ed Clark, who became Atlanta Motor Speedway’s general manager during Elliott’s successful run in Atlanta. “He was dominant out of this small shop in Dawsonville and, unlike drivers today, did a great deal of work on the car. He blew away the top teams that had three times as many employees – it was just remarkable. Bill left a bunch of people scratching their heads wondering what they weren’t doing that he was. There was a lot of intelligence and ingenuity in that shop that I’m not sure they ever have received the proper credit for.”
(Excerpts Courtesy of Atlanta Motor Speedway)