Bill Elliott emerged as a bona fide superspeedway hero in the 1985 NASCAR Winston Cup season. Elliott won 11 superspeedway races in 1985, still a single-season record. He gobbled up every laurel and post-season award possible, yet didn't win the NASCAR Winston Cup championship. That honor went to Darrell Waltrip, who won three races. The intricacies of the NASCAR points system rewarded consistency in 1985.
The 1985 All-Star race was a big bonus to the drivers and fans of NASCAR Winston Cup racing. The inaugural running of the event, which was open to all drivers who won races in 1984, was staged at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The event was "on the house" for NASCAR enthusiasts who had paid to see a race the day before.
In this article, you'll learn about these and other events that shaped the 1985 NASCAR Winston Cup campaign, including season highlights, final standings, and photos that capture the action.
February 17, 1985: Daytona 500
Bill Elliott leads 136 of the 200 laps in dominating the Daytona 500. Elliott dominates Daytona's Speedweeks, winning the pole at more than 205 mph and nearly lapping the field in the Twin 125-mile qualifier.
Cale Yarborough and his Ranier Racing team switched from General Motors products to Fords in 1985. Although regarded as one of the most formidable teams on the tour, Yarborough struggled with his new mount. He went winless until the July 28 Talladega 500. Yarborough took the lead when Bill Elliott's smooth-running Ford developed problems in the final laps. It was only the fourth race all year that Yarborough was able to finish. See more pictures of NASCAR.
March 17, 1985: Coca-Cola 500
Driving with a broken leg suffered in a crash at Rockingham, Bill Elliott outruns Geoff Bodine by 2.64 seconds to win the Coca-Cola 500 at Atlanta. Elliott wins two of the first four races, but ranks a distant fifth in the points standings.
April 6, 1985: Valleydale 500
Dale Earnhardt manhandles his Chevrolet and comes out on top of the Valleydale 500 at Bristol. The power-steering unit in Earnhardt's Chevrolet fails in the first 50 miles, but he never lets it slow him down.
Number 8 Bobby Hillin, Jr., feels pressure from #32 Alan Kulwicki and #53 Jimmy Means in the Sept. 8 Wrangler Sanfor-Set 400 at Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway. Kulwicki, driving Bill Terry's #32 Ford, was making his first appearance on NASCAR's Winston Cup Grand National tour. He qualified 25th and finished 19th, eight laps behind winner Darrell Waltrip. Hillin came in 21st and Means finished 23rd.
May 5, 1985: Winston 500
In one of the most miraculous comebacks in NASCAR history, Bill Elliott rallies from a five-mile deficit without the aid of a caution flag and wins the Winston 500 at Talladega. A broken oil fitting had knocked Elliott nearly two laps off the pace early.
May 25 and 26, 1985
Darrell Waltrip passes Harry Gant with two laps to go and wins the inaugural The Winston NASCAR all-star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Waltrip captures the World 600 the next day and pockets $290,733 for his back-to-back wins.
June 16, 1985: Miller 400
Bill Elliott wins his seventh superspeedway race in nine starts, taking the checkered flag in Michigan's Miller 400. Darrell Waltrip finishes a distant second and trails Elliott by 86 points in championship race.
Front-row starters Bill Elliott and Cale Yarborough lead the field at the start of the May 5 Winston 500 at Talladega's Alabama International Motor Speedway. The field was the smallest in Talladega's history, but there was no shortage of entries. Greg Sacks qualified for the race, but pulled out due to an engine problem. No other driver was permitted to take Sacks' place in the field, so only 39 cars started.
July 4, 1985: Pepsi Firecracker 400
Unheralded Greg Sacks stuns the favorites by winning the Pepsi Firecracker 400 at Daytona. Sacks drives an unsponsored car to a 23.5-second triumph over runner-up Bill Elliott. It is not only Sacks' first NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National victory, but also his first top-five finish.
July 28, 1985: Talladega 500
Cale Yarborough nabs his first win of the season, winning the Talladega 500. Yarborough nips Neil Bonnett and Ron Bouchard in the final laps.
American patriotism made the quarter-panels of Mike Alexander's #95 Chevrolet in the Oct. 6 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The youngster from Tennessee, whose Sadler Brothers Chevy was adorned with the "Share The Pride" colors, finished 18th after starting 32nd. Buddy Baker, seen nosing ahead of Alexander, went on to finish eighth in the 500-miler.
September 1, 1985: Southern 500
Bill Elliott grabs his 10th win of the season and pockets the inaugural offering of the Winston Million $1 million bonus in Darlington's Southern 500. Elliott leads the championship chase by 206 points.
September 29, 1985: Holly Farms 400
Harry Gant dominates the field to win the Holly Farms 400 at North Wilkesboro Speedway as Darrell Waltrip takes the points lead. Bill Elliott finishes out of the top 10 for the fourth consecutive race.
Smoke erupts from the #9 Coors Ford of Bill Elliott in the Winston 500. Elliott was holding a solid lead when a broken oil fitting required him to limp into the pits for repairs. Elliott returned to the track running 26th, 2.03 seconds from going two laps down. At that point, Elliott began one of the most memorable comebacks in NASCAR history. Without the aid of a caution flag, he rallied from the five-mile deficit, took the lead 97 laps later, and scored his fourth win of the season.
November 3, 1985: Atlanta Journal 500
Bill Elliott rebounds with a victory in the Atlanta Journal 500 for his record-setting 11th superspeedway win of the season. Elliott tops David Pearson's 1973 record of 10 superspeedway wins in a season.
November 17, 1985
Ricky Rudd wins the season finale at Riverside as Darrell Waltrip finishes seventh and wraps up his third NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National championship. Bill Elliott experiences transmission problems early, erasing his title hopes.
For the final standings of the 1985 NASCAR Winston Cup campaign, see the next page.
For more information on all things NASCAR, see:
1985 NASCAR Winston Cup StandingsThe NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National points system came under fire in 1985 as Bill Elliott, who won a record 11 superspeedway races, was blown away in the points race by three-time winner Darrell Waltrip.
1985 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion Derrell Waltrip
Waltrip, who won the title for the third time, also questioned the points system. "There's not enough incentive for winning the race," said Waltrip. "This year I was the beneficiary of the points system. I've been on the other end of it, too. I will be the first to admit that with the year Bill had, he deserved to be the champion."
Elliott led virtually every category, but lost the championship to Waltrip by 101 points. It was the biggest margin of victory since 1978.
Elliott squandered a 206-point lead in the final two months of the season. Waltrip took a commanding lead by finishing 14th at North Wilkesboro in late September. He was never threatened during the final four races.
The points lead changed hands 10 times among five drivers. Lake Speed, Terry Labonte, and Geoff Bodine also enjoyed brief stints atop the standings.
For the full standings for the 1985 NASCAR Winston Cup season, see the chart below.
1985 NASCAR Winston Cup Standings
||Bobby Hillin, Jr.||3,091||0
For more information on all things NASCAR, see: