Dawsonville, Georgia’s Bill Elliott today announced his 2011 plans for the NASCAR Sprint Cup season today via his website, BillElliott.com. The 16-time Most Popular Driver has been driving part-time since semi-retiring after the 2003 season.
The 1988 NASCAR Cup Champ has won 44 Sprint Cup races and 55 poles, mostly in Fords. But for the first time in his career, he’ll start the season as a Chevrolet driver. He has teamed up with James Finch’s Phoenix Racing to run the No. 09 Chevrolet in a minimum of 18 races this season.
The new combo will start the season at Daytona, where Elliott has four Sprint Cup wins including two in the Daytona 500 and Finch has finishes of third, fourth, ninth, 10th and 12th in the Great American Race. Phoenix Racing team also has a Cup victory at Daytona’s sister track, Talladega Superspeedway, in 2009 with Brad Keselowski driving.
“It’s big for us and big for Chevrolet to get Bill Elliott,” Finch said. “It’s the first time in his career that he’s committed to race a Chevrolet.”
Finch also said he was confident that even at age 55 Elliott, whose previous Cup wins have come in Fords and Dodges, can get the job done in his Chevrolets. “With the right equipment, he’s ready,” Finch said. “He was just a couple of hundredths of a second off the pole at Homestead last year.”
Nick Harris will serve as crew chief on the No. 09 Impala, and the team will use equipment and engines from Hendrick Motorsports. Bill Elliott said he’s excited to be moving to Phoenix Racing and to the Chevrolet camp. “I think this will be a really good deal,” he said. “James has really good race cars, and there’s no doubt about the Hendrick equipment. After all, look at all the championships they’ve won.”
Elliott, who will climb in the No. 09 for the first time on Thursday during testing at Daytona International Speedway, said he’s pleased to have the opportunity to drive proven equipment at this stage of his career. He plans to make the most of it.
“This may well be my last really good chance as a driver,” he said. “I’m going to give it my best shot. I feel like I’m still in good shape, and I thought we ran pretty good last year.”
Finch said he hopes to run the full Sprint Cup schedule with the No. 09, and he plans to run a limited Nationwide Series schedule, focusing on the restrictor-plate tracks. “I’m going to concentrate on the Cup side,” Finch said. “We’ll see what we can do.”