30 years later, it’s still entertaining. It’s a case where the event lives up to the hype. It shouldn’t be a surprise. The 80s and 90s were a golden age for NASCAR. Dale Earnhardt, Bill Elliott, Terry Labonte, and Geoff Bodine were genuine stars, setting the stage to make the 1987 running of the all-star race an instant classic.
Bill “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” Elliott was the resident speed merchant of the era. Until the restrictor plates came along, he was tooling along at ridiculous speeds exceeding 210 miles per hour. He was easily the most popular driver of his era; the original Dale Jr. What was not to like? Elliott came from a humble beginning to the top of the NASCAR heap, going on to win 44 races during his illustrious career and a championship.
You would think Bill Elliott and Dale Earnhardt would be boon companions. He was another southern boy who had to claw to gain a toe hold in the sport. It didn’t play put that way, and the 1987 Winston Star race was a big part of it.
The accompanying video (click here) gives you Elliott’s perspective on the day. When Elliott’s nine car moved down on Earnhardt, the three ended up in the grass. Imagine a pig on ice skates. That’s a race car in the grass. It was no pass- as has been said many times. What it was almost superhuman car control. The pass in the grass sounds good, but it was no pass.
Later, the two ended up side by side. Earnhardt got into Elliott causing him to cut a tire. At race’s end, The Intimidator made victory lane by holding off Labonte. Elliott had to settle for 14th.
To say Bill Elliott was a bit upset would be understating things. Both Bodine and Elliott got into Earnhardt on the cool down lap. One story even had it that Elliott took all his Wrangler jeans (Dale’s sponsor at the time) and threw them out. To hear Earnhardt tell it, the two talked and made up. Things never were good between the seven-time champ and Bodine. Some people just never get along.
I’ve always said the Earnhardt could never outrun is past. He continued to race all the way into the last days of his career like he was in danger of losing his ride. He had nothing to worry about, but he didn’t race that way. While all the mind games and on-track aggression may have been unnecessary, let it be known a part of Earnhardt’s secret was he wanted it more.
Put another way, Dale Earnhardt refused to lose.