DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 8, 2012) – Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 marked a first for Turner Motorsports, which made its NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut with racing legend, Bill Elliott. It was also a first for Walmart, with the company’s logo adorning the blue No. 50 Chevrolet in their first endeavor as a primary sponsor in NASCAR’s top series.
After making several appearances at Walmart stores throughout the area, meeting customers and employees alike, Elliott made his way to Daytona International Speedway set for his 60th start at the historic race track.
Rolling off from the sixth position under the lights of the 2.5-mile speedway, Elliott quickly jumped into the third spot, which he maintained until the teams began making their first round of pit stops under green-flag conditions. The lead lap cars began hitting pit road on lap 40, with Elliott following suit on lap 42. Under crew chief Trent Owens instruction, the Walmart crew changed four tires and added fuel. No adjustments were needed as, prior to the stop, Elliott had informed his crew over the radio that “everything’s all good in here.”
As the stops cycled through the field, Elliott dropped to the rear of the lead pack of cars in an effort to cool down his engine, which had become a little hot in the pack. Elliott patiently circled the track, holding his position as he let the leaders battle it out.
A caution on lap 81 prompted Owens to bring the No. 50 Walmart Chevy back to pit road for service. Again, the crew went to work, changing four tires and packing the car with fuel. Elliott returned to the track in the 17th position, again wanting to trail the lead pack, not only to keep his engine cooled off, but also to avoid the highly anticipated “big one.”
A multi-car accident on lap 90 proved that the veteran’s strategy was the right one as he was able to maneuver through the carnage that occurred ahead of him. He returned to pit road under the caution for a four-tire and fuel stop before lining up 21st for the restart. Within two laps, he had taken over the 14th position. He briefly reported a bad vibration in his Walmart Chevrolet, a condition that eventually diminished.
Over the course of the next few laps, Elliott reported that he was really happy with his race car. He jockeyed for position while working the draft, preparing himself for a battle to the end. Unfortunately, on lap 123, a car entering pit road caused the field to stack up ahead of him. Though he was able to get slowed down to avoid the melee, the car behind him was not, and slammed into the back of the No. 50. With damage too severe to repair, Elliott and his team’s night was disappointingly cut short.
After being released from his mandatory visit to the Infield Car Center, Elliott spoke to reporters.
“That was one of the best cars I have had in a long, long time. I think we really had a contending car had we been able to get to the end, but that’s just Daytona. I can’t say enough about the effort of these guys. They were a great group to work with! Thank you to everyone at Turner Motorsports as well as a huge thanks to Walmart. It was a privilege to represent them both on and off the track and I’m happy I could be a part of their 50th birthday celebration!’