The most popular driver in the Winston Cup, Bill Elliott, could be denied the opportunity to score one last win for his self-owned team after severely fracturing his kneecap whilst working at his Blairsville home earlier this week.

The driver of the #94 McDonalds Ford Taurus nicknamed 'Awesome Bill from Dawsonville' was rushed to a nearby hospital where one of NASCAR's most prominent orthopaedic surgeons performed a crucial operation on the veteran driver.

Team spokesman David Ferroni said that the accident was a "freak occurrence" and precise details of the incident, which happened as Elliott was working in his back garden, are unknown.

The recouperation time for Elliott is also unknown at this early stage but Ferroni said that the injury was "a multiple fracture of the left kneecap." Elliott is unlikely to race in this Saturday's 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway and with such a painful injury he may find it difficult actually sitting in the car for many weeks to come.

If Elliott is ruled out for a number of the remaining races this year it will be a bitter blow to the team that he set up from scratch in 1995 but sadly, has not enjoyed the level of success he had hoped for. Elliott has not won a race since he left the Junior Johnson operation in 1994 and has not been on the pole since 1997.

The 44-year-old driver has 40 Winston Cup wins to his credit, accumulated in more than two decades of WC racing, and his experience will be a great asset to the all-new Ray Evernham team, which he will drive for in 2001.