BILL ELLIOTT (No. 91 Evernham Motorsports Dodge)
NOTE: Elliott will compete in his 19th Budweiser Shootout on Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway. He won the 1987 Shootout from the pole position. He ranks first in Shootout starts and laps completed (515). Elliott will not race in the 2004 Daytona 500.
ďI want to be an asset to the team, not a liability. I knew if I ran the Shootout and Jeremy is also running the Shootout, I knew I could help both Jeremy and Kasey. Itís so different right now. Iím not thinking about the 125s or Daytona 500 at all. I enjoyed the 125s in the past, but right now my role is to help Jeremy and Kasey and thatís a very different role for me.Ē
ARE YOU LIKE A PLAYER-COACH NOW?
ďI really donít know. Iíll probably be able to answer that better as the season progresses. Iím going to fit in wherever I can fit in. Iíll try to help Ray, Jeremy or Kasey, but Iím enjoying where I am today. I think I can be an asset to Evernham Motorsports and the entire Dodge program. Thatís where I need to be.
ďI feel relieved in a lot of ways. Right now, Iím sure Iím going to miss some things, but my role has changed enough that itíll give me opportunities to do other things. I sat down the other night and watched that movie Radio. I think the coach in there said it so well when he was talking about certain things in your life being very important and it comes a time that things change. Thatís where I am in my career. Racing is important to me, but other things are becoming more important to me. That fits me to a tee. Iím ready to go do other things.
ďIím ready to slow down from the grind of running a full season, and I know a lot of you know what Iím talking about. The physical aspect is one thing, and I know how bad these races beat me up the last two or three years. As hard as youíve got to run Ďem, the length of the events and the length of the season just isnít lending itself to an older guy. If I can still run some events this year, hopefully 12-15 depending on how the sponsorship goes, thatís my goal. Iíll fit in in whatever way I can as far as Jeremy and Kasey are concerned, primarily Kasey to help him through some rough spots as he gets started on his Cup deal. Weíll see what happens.Ē
ďIím looking at a multi-faceted deal. Iím having a good time and enjoying where Iím at in life. From one side of the coin, not having a major sponsor on the car takes some pressure away. Iím sure if something comes along weíll deal with what weíve got at that particular time. For all intents and purposes, Iím very content and very happy with where Iím at today. You never know whatís going to happen. Itíll depend on circumstances. You get started in a season and things donít go well and the teamís not gelling and you canít hit on anything and you get to April and May and June and it can be a miserable situation. On the other hand, you get to the way we were running last fall, and itís fantastic. For me to do it week in and week out and the way things were changing for this year with the tire deal and spoiler deal, I thought it was my time to step back and give Kasey Kahne a chance to come in and continue on.
ďNow I can take a weekend off and go do something else. I guess when I was growing up, especially in my high school days, I really cherished weekends. Once I got started racing, and the commitment it tookÖ. I put 1000 percent commitment into racing over the years. This gives me a different opportunity. I still have some friends I want to see and things I want to do, and still try to help Ray everyway I can. Thatís going to be a key part of what my next step is going to be.
HOW DOES IT FEEL NOT HAVING ALL THE PRESSURE?
ďI donít know how to describe it. If things arenít going good in April or May, I donít have to worry about it. I donít have the pressure of answering to the sponsors or trying to answer to whatever. I can take this step and come into events and if I need to do fan stuff, I can devote 100 percent to that. If I need to do media or a sponsor, I can take it a step at a time. Before you had to put it all together and do it every week. It becomes one hell of a strain before the season is over. I donít care how good you are in this business. As tough as the competitors have gotten and as bad as this sport can eat you up and spit you out, thatís what I see. I donít think I really realized it until I got on the outside a little looking in. Itís like that old saying, canít see the forest for the trees.
WHAT DIFFERENT THINGS DO YOU PLAN TO DO?
ďIíve got a lot or other roles I want to fulfill. I want to watch Chase race go-karts some. I want to go with my daughters for some horse stuff. I want to start doing some
things I havenít done in the past. I want to put my life in perspective. I still feel like Iíd like to do something for the fans. I havenít really put it together. I donít want to do a year long deal like everybody has done in the past. I want to take care of the fans that have taken care of me for all the years. To sit down and say Iím going to walk away from the sport cold turkey is one thing, but I want to sit down and say, Ďlook, now itís time to give back to the people who gave to me.í Iíve still got a lot of good friends in the sport, and I feel like I can play a role and help the team. I feel like I can be a part of it for at least a short time. It comes to the point that other things become more important. When I was there I was giving 100 percent and when I continue to race itíll be 100 percent, but itíll be at my own pace. I feel like Iíve run long enough and Iíve earned it and I deserve it and my family deserves it. ď
DO YOU THINK YOUíLL MISS IT?
ďI was kidding with Kasey and told him to get my uniform off. I understand this is a part of evolution and thatís what life is all about. We donít live forever. We donít drive a racecar forever. It just doesnít happen. Itís part of where everybody eventually is going to be.Ē
WILL RUNNING PART-TIME MAKE IT MORE DIFFICULT TO WIN?
ďIf I didnít have Jeremy and Kasey out there running every week, it might be. Iíll revisit that later in the year, but I think right now I donít see that being a problem. As fresh as I am out of the car and the way I envision testing and running and continuing to be part of it, I donít see that as a factor.Ē
DID YOUR SUCCESS AT THE END OF 2003 MAKE CUTTING BACK HARDER?
ďI had already made up my mind, and I wasnít going to back off. If I had won five or six races, it wouldnít have made any difference. Iíve never been a person who likes the limelight. I was always a guy who liked to be in the background. If I won a race, it was more self-satisfaction and happiness for the team as it was to go out and boast about winning. Thatís the way Iíll always be. ď