Two legendary NASCAR Hall of Famers, Richard Petty and Bill Elliott, will pace the field for the 68th running of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bojangles’ Southern 500, scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 3 at Darlington Raceway.
Petty will lead the field in his 1967 Plymouth, followed by Elliott, who will serve as the honorary pace car driver, piloting a Ford pace car, as the field goes green for the iconic race.
Darlington Raceway will be honoring Petty and Elliott during its award-winning throwback weekend as the two legends of the sport are being recognized by the track for two specific moments that helped shape the history of the Lady in Black.
Petty’s win in the 1967 Southern 500 turned out to be his one and only victory in the famed Labor Day weekend classic. Petty led an astounding 345 of a possible 364 laps in a dominant victory. Only three other drivers led laps in the entire race – David Pearson (12 laps), Buddy Baker (6) and Donnie Allison (1).
The 2017 season marks the 50th anniversary of Petty’s win in a career that culminated with 200 NASCAR Cup Series victories overall. Petty also recently celebrated his 80th birthday on July 2, which was recognized with much fanfare during the Coke Zero 400 race weekend at Daytona International Speedway.
“The 1967 Southern 500 was a great win. To be able to win at Darlington, especially in those days, was really special. The Southern 500 was, and still is, one of the great races in our sport,” Petty said.
With Darlington celebrating the 1985-89 era of the sport for its throwback weekend, one of NASCAR’s most memorable moments came in the 1985 Southern 500, when Elliott won the Winston Million.
Elliott had already won the Daytona 500 and Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway earlier in the year, but following an 18th place showing at the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, Elliott needed a win at Darlington to secure the $1 million prize.
On Sept. 1, 1985, after taking the pole for the Southern 500, Elliott managed to pass race leader Cale Yarborough with just over 40 laps to go and never relinquished the lead, fighting off Yarborough and Dale Earnhardt for the win. Elliott’s victory earned him a special place in NASCAR history and the title “Million Dollar Bill” from that day forward.
“What a day, what a day!” Elliott said during the winner’s interview. “Thank the good Lord for looking out for me today. We didn’t outrun ‘em, we outlasted ‘em.”
“We’re honored to have two of NASCAR’s greatest legends, Richard Petty and Bill Elliott, pace the field for the 68th running of the Bojangles’ Southern 500,” Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp said. “Their accomplishments in our sport and at Darlington will be celebrated during our throwback weekend and we are excited that our fans will have the opportunity to see these two NASCAR heroes lead the field to green.”
Petty was part of the inaugural class of inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010. Elliott was inducted into the NHOF in 2015.
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