Dennis Setzer

April 30 in NASCAR: Mark Martin passes Dale Earnhardt to get Talladega win

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If Dale Earnhardt was “Mr. Restrictor Plate,” Mark Martin was “Mr. Good Almost Everywhere Else.”

When their respective Cup Series careers were over, Earnhardt had 76 points wins at 17 different tracks with 10 coming at Talladega.

Martin had 40 points wins across 20 tracks, with Talladega the site of his only two superspeedway wins.

The first occurred April 30, 1995.

The race saw Martin dominate, leading 86 of the race’s first 173 laps. Meanwhile, Earnhardt only led three of the first 183 laps. But Earnhardt was there at the end, assuming the lead from Rusty Wallace with five laps to go after Wallace ran out of gas exiting Turn 2.

Martin was hot on Earnhardt’s rear bumper as they crossed the finish line with four laps to go.

The duo ran by themselves until they were caught on the backstretch with two laps to go by Jeff Gordon and Morgan Shepherd, pulled along in the draft by the lapped car of Sterling Marlin.

As they raced through the tri-oval toward the white flag, Martin faked going high before going to Earnhardt’s inside. Martin led at the line while Earnhardt was hung out to dry. Exiting Turn 2, Shepherd got loose and tagged Earnhardt’s left rear, sending him into a spin before he made light contact with the wall. He’d finish 21st.

From there it was a race between Martin and Gordon, who would earn 12 restrictor-plate points wins in his career, with six at Talladega.

But Gordon would have to wait until 1996 for his first. Martin took the checkered flag for his first of four wins in 1995.

“I can’t believe it,” Martin told ESPN. “With two to go I’d thought we’d lost for sure. … When (Gordon) caught us, we caught (Earnhardt) at just the right time to get a big shove and Dale was putting a block on us but we were coming. We were going one way or the other. … I see how they do it now. Fast cars.”

Also on this date:

1966: In the midst of a boycott by Ford, Richard Petty dominated to win a lightly attended race at Darlington. Petty led 271 of 291 laps from the pole to score his third win of the season. About 12,000 people attended the race with 5,000 being Boy Scouts who were admitted for free, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: Big Bucks and Boycotts.” Curtis Turner quit as a Ford driver and competed in the race in Smokey Yunick’s Chevrolet.

1967: Richard Petty dominated at Darlington again, leading 266 of 291 laps and beating David Pearson by one lap. The win was Petty’s 55th, which moved him by his father, Lee Petty, on the all-time wins list.

1994: Hermie Sadler led 85 laps and beat Dennis Setzer to win the Xfinity Series race at Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, North Carolina. It was the last of Sadler’s two career wins, both coming at that track. it was the last of 27 Xfinity races at the .375-mile track.

2005: Ted Musgrave led all but two laps, survived a restart with two laps to go and beat Dennis Setzer in a Truck Series race at Gateway International Speedway. It was Musgrave’s only win in his championship campaign.

March 23 in NASCAR History: The Kyle and Kyle Show at Auto Club Speedway

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If your name was Kyle, you had a good weekend in Fontana, California, in March 2014.

On Saturday, March 22, Kyle Larson got it rolling by pulling off an upset win in the Xfinity Series race over Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.

Larson passed Busch for the lead with five laps to go and then held off four straight dive-bomb pass attempts by Harvick in Turn 4 to take the checkered flag.

On Sunday, March, 23, it came down to Larson and Busch.

In an overtime finish, Busch and Larson navigated their way through a wild restart and passed the Stewart-Haas Racing teammates of Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart on the last lap.

Kyle Busch held off Larson’s pass attempt in the final turn and cruised to his second straight Auto Club 400 win.

A rookie that year, the runner-up finish was Larson’s first career top five. He wouldn’t earn his first win until 2016 at Auto Club’s sister track, Michigan International Speedway.

Also on this date:

1969: Bobby Allison won the Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway. He led the final eight laps after David Pearson dropped out with an expired engine. Allison won over LeeRoy Yarbrough by four laps.

1975: Richard Petty beat Buddy Baker in a one-lap dash to win at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It was Petty’s third win in six races to start the season and he’d win the following race at North Wilkesboro for his third consecutive victory. Dale Earnhardt Jr. revisited the race on his old show “Back in the Day.”

2003: In a two-lap shootout, Dennis Setzer beat Jon Wood in a Truck Series race at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, California. It would be the final visit to the half-mile track by the Truck Series after holding nine races there.

NASCAR America: $400 a week was enough to make Aric Almirola know he wanted to race

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Climbing through the late model ranks is not glamorous, but no matter how humble the origin, a true racer knows early that is what they want to do for the rest of their life.

For Aric Almirola, it was a $400-a-week paycheck and a percentage of the prize money that set him on the path to becoming a NASCAR Cup driver.

“When I finally got that call to move to North Carolina and go drive for Joe Gibbs – I got paid $400 a week to drive racecars and I got to keep half of whatever I won, driving a late model. … I made $26-$30,000 that year and I was like, ‘Man, this is awesome,’ ” he said on Wednesday’s NASCAR America.

“From that day forward, I was like this is what I want to do forever. I want to make a living. I don’t care how small, how big – I want to work on racecars. I want to drive racecars and so far, it’s worked out.”

MORE: Aric Almirola feels like a “rookie driver again” with Stewart-Haas Racing
MORE: Aric Almirola: Debut with Stewart-Haas has been ‘what I imagined’

While driving for Gibbs, Almirola got the opportunity to participate in a contest to drive a team truck for Dennis Setzer in 2005. Everyone ran 10 laps, came in and told the crew chief what they would like to see changed, then run 25 laps on a fresh set of tires.

“Whoever won this combine was going to get to run four non-companion Truck races,” Almirola said.

He won by having the quickest time, but might also have scored points with the crew chief by not asking for any changes.

In his first Truck race after the combine, Almirola was running in the top five with 40 laps remaining when he got into a wreck with Mike Skinner. He finished 30th in the 36-truck field.

His next outing was much better. Starting 31st at Indianapolis Raceway Park, Almirola finished 10th the following week.

For more, watch the video above.

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