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Elliott has more time to kick back

Guess how 46-year-old Bill Elliott spent the week preparing for his first Winston Cup victory in more than seven years.


"Hey guys. It's tight through the turns. I think we need a little more wax on the right rear."

Elliott was a chassis master in his heyday. In winning 40 races from 1983-94, he was able to tell his crew chief precisely how a car should be set up at every track.

Today, he boards.

"These cars have changed so much, even in the last two or three years," said Elliott, who won Sunday's Pennzoil 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway for his 41st career victory. "The engineers and the crew chiefs set it up. You just pretty much get in the car and drive it."

Elliott spent the past six seasons as an owner-driver, which proved a frustrating proposition. He sold his race shop to Ray Evernham, whose first-year team fields the No. 9 Dodge for Elliott and No. 19 for rookie Casey Atwood.

In addition to starting a new race team, Evernham also spearheaded Dodge's return to Winston Cup racing this season after an absence of 16 years. It was a huge undertaking.

Elliott sympathizes.

"Every time I see Ray I smile at him, because I know what he's going through," Elliott said. "It took me six months to realize I didn't have to worry about anything at the race shop anymore _ that I could pretty much leave the truck at the end of the day, forget about it and come back the next Thursday.

"This week I was able to go to Colorado and clean the cobwebs out and I came in here with a lot better attitude. Being in it for the last six years as a car owner, there was no way to get away from it. It engulfs you."

Many said Elliott never would win again. The 1988 champion went 226 races without a victory, since September of 1994.

But Elliott, who has two more seasons on his contract with Evernham, is convinced he still belongs in the sport he helped make popular.

He is not a relic.

"You've got to be able to change," he said. "That's the key to being successful throughout your career. That's what was hardest for me the last couple years, being able to change the way we set up these race cars and learn how to drive them differently.

"A lot of guys can't change. They say, "This is the way it's got to be and that's it.' I went through 1998 and '99 with that mentality. Now it's, "You guys set it up and I'll try to give you the feedback I can on what the car is doing and we'll go from there.' "

CREW MEMBER STABLE: Bobby Burrell, the front tire changer for Ricky Rudd's No. 28 Ford, remained in serious but stable condition Monday at Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Burrell was injured during a pit-road accident in the Pennzoil 400. Two other crew members and a NASCAR official also sustained minor injuries.

Burrell was thrown head-first into the pit wall when Ward Burton's car banged off Atwood's and into Rudd's pit stall. Rudd's car was on the jack at the time.

Helmets are optional for NASCAR crew members and only a handful wear them. None of the people involved in the accident was wearing head protection.

GARLITS IS NO. 1: "Big Daddy" Don Garlits, a Tampa native, was named the top driver in NHRA history Sunday by the drag racing sanctioning body.

NHRA is celebrating its 50th anniversary and over the course of the season has named its top 50 drivers. John Force, an 11-time Funny Car champion, was the runner-up.

"I'm overwhelmed," Garlits said. "Being selected NHRA's No. 1 driver is an unbelievable accomplishment. It's like a dream. I wanted to be No. 1 because I had been around longer than anyone had. I spent every waking moment thinking about drag racing and I think I've given a lot to the sport."

Garlits, 69, revolutionized the sport when he designed the first rear-engine drag racer. He won 35 national events and three Top Fuel championships.

The 1950 Hillsborough High graduate runs a drag racing museum near Ocala.

_ Information from other news organizations was used in this report.