April 23 in NASCAR: Darrell Waltrip sends Monte Carlo out with win

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Long before the Cup Series conducted the 2007 season alternating between two generations of cars, a manufacturer swapped car models in the middle of the season.

The switch took place in 1989 and involved Chevrolet going from the Monte Carlo to the Lumina.

The Monte Carlo’s last ride (before its 1995 re-introduction) came in the season’s eighth race on April 23 at Martinsville Speedway as the short track’s master in the 1980s, Darrell Waltrip, took the win.

Waltrip passed 47-year-old rookie Dick Trickle for the lead with 52 laps to go and led the rest of the way.

His main challenger in the race’s final stage was Dale Earnhardt, who finished second after leading 103 laps. The Intimidator’s chances at the win ended on his last pit stop when an air hose malfunctioned and the No. 3 team couldn’t get a new left-rear tire on it.

Afterward, NASCAR officials found Earnhardt’s left rear was missing two lug nuts and fined the team $300, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era.” The same violation today would cost a Cup crew chief $20,000 and a one-race suspension.

For Waltrip, it was the 10th of his 11 career Martinsville wins. Nine of them came in the 1980s. In Victory Lane, an exhausted Waltrip had to receive oxygen before continuing his celebration.

“What a great day for Chevrolet, I was hoping it would happen this way,” Waltrip said in the next day’s Charlotte Observer. “The reason I sat down for a few seconds in Victory Lane is because I was sick and I didn’t want to throw up on this race car. I might have to use it again.”

Waltrip would get the Lumina’s first win two races later in the Coca-Cola 600.

Also on this date:

1961: Richard Petty easily won a race at Richmond that saw 12 cars start and six finish it.

1962: Rex White won a rain-shortened race at Bowman Gray Stadium to cap off a series of four Grand National races over five days. For those races, the series traveled from Greenville to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, then to Martinsville, Virginia, before ending at Bowman Gray in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Eleven drivers competed in all four events.

1967: Petty led the final 31 laps to win at Martinsville for his fourth win on the short track. He and Cale Yarborough were the only drivers to finish on the lead lap. Third-place finisher J.T. Putney finished nine laps down.

1972: Petty won at Martinsville by seven laps over Bobby Allison. That was despite his 1972 Plymouth running on only seven cylinders, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era.” “It cost me about 50 horsepower,” Petty said. “But I could make up some of the distance in the corners because I was going into them slower.”

1995: Rusty Wallace led 175 laps and beat Ted Musgrave to win at Martinsville for his third consecutive win on the short track.