It had been 100 years and a couple of weeks since the American Civil War had ended, but Dick Hutcherson was made so mad by the end of the May 2, 1965 race at Bristol Motor Speedway, he felt the need to invoke it.
“I may be a damn Yankee, but I’ll always believe I won this race. No one will ever convince me I didn’t,” Hutcherson said according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: Big Bucks and Boycotts.”
“I think Robert E. Lee’s grandson was scoring the race,” he added.
They were strong remarks for Hutcherson, who was a native of Iowa.
The cause of his anger was that Junior Johnson, a native of North Carolina, had been declared the winner of the 500-lap race on the half-mile track. Hutcherson was scored as finishing second.
Johnson had gone a lap-and-a-half down when he lost a tire 265 laps into the race. Then he needed relief from Fred Lorenzen for 147 laps. After returning to the race, Johnson spent 117 laps making up time and then took the lead with 62 laps to go.
Hutcherson believed he had a one-lap lead before Johnson’s final driver change and a two-lap lead afterward.
“At the finish, Johnson was just barely back in the lead lap,” Hutcherson said.
After going over the scoring cards with NASCAR’s chief scorer, Joe Epton, Hutcherson’s co-owner, Ralph Moody, was content with the results.
Also on this date:
1954: Herb Thomas won a Grand National race at Langhorne (Pa.) Speedway by one lap for his fifth win in the first 10 races of the season. The top five was swept by drivers in Hudson Hornets.
1971: After Buddy Baker passed Donnie Allison 11 laps from the finish and Allison’s engine expired a lap later, Baker went on to claim the win at Darlington by seven laps over Dick Brooks. According to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: Big Bucks and Boycotts,” the race was the final one for the pairing of David Pearson and the Holman-Moody team. They split over a dispute about how much appearance money Pearson would receive for the May 16 race at Talladega.
1982: With drafting help from Terry Labonte, Darrell Waltrip passed Benny Parsons on the last lap to win the Winston 500 at Talladega.
1993: In a two-lap shootout following a red flag for rain at Talladega, Ernie Irvan went from fourth to first to claim the win. As the field approached the checkered flag, contact from Dale Earnhardt sent Rusty Wallace into a violent tumble that gave him a broken wrist, a concussion and a chipped tooth.
April 17 in NASCAR: Johnson wins in four-wide finish at Talladega
The early 2010s were a different time for NASCAR when it came to restrictor-plate tracks and it can be summed up in two words: Tandem racing.
For a brief time, the signature image of a huge pack of cars streaming around Daytona and Talladega was replaced by the visual of two-car pairings, usually teammates, frantically pushing each other for position.
The tandem era arguably peaked on April 17, 2011 at Talladega in a race that featured 88 lead changes.
With five laps to go in the Aaron’s 499, 10 groups of tandem partners jockeyed for the win, with Dave Blaney leading into Turn 1 via a push from Kurt Busch. Neither driver would finish in the top 15 after Busch nearly wrecked Blaney with four laps to go.
With two laps to go, the parings of Edwards/Biffle and Bowyer/Harvick had a good advantage over the rest of the field. But by the time the field exited Turn 4, the Gordon/Martin duo had passed Bowyer/Harvick. They were the leaders as they took the white flag.
When the field reached Turn 3 for the final time, Johnson/Earnhardt had entered the fray. They were behind Bowyer/Harvick and Gordon/Martin as they entered the tri-oval. Edwards/Biffle trailed them.
Johnson/Earnhardt then dove to the lower lane in the tri-oval and started a three-wide drag race to the finish line that would become a four-wide finish at the last moment.
Johnson beat Bowyer by .002 seconds.
“I drove through (Turns) 3 and 4 and I’m like, ‘We’ll get another chance, I hope,'” Johnson told Fox. “They were worried about each other in the second and third lane and left that bottom open and we had some big (momentum) on our side and off we went.”
Also on this date:
1960: Joe Weatherly won his second race in two nights with a victory at Wilson (N.C) Speedway, a half-mile dirt track. But Weatherly wasn’t the first to cross the finish line. That was Emanuel Zervakis. NASCAR disqualified his win after they found his fuel tank was oversized, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Superspeedway Boom.”
1965: Rookie Dick Hutcherson earned his first career win in a race at Greenville-Pickens (S.C) Speedway. He went on to win nine poles and nine races that season on his way to a runner-up finish in the points. He’d only compete in two more seasons, winning five times. He went on to crew chief for David Pearson during Pearson’s 1969 championship run.
1977: Cale Yarborough led 495 of 500 laps and won a Cup race at Bristol by seven laps over Dick Brooks.
1994: Terry Labonte led only the final 29 laps and beat Rusty Wallace and Ernie Irvan at North Wilkesboro for his first win as driver of Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 5 Chevrolet.
2009: Greg Biffle led the final 106 laps and beat Jason Leffler at Phoenix Raceway for his 20th and final Xfinity Series win.
There once was a time in NASCAR when no matter how bad the crash, drivers raced back to the finish line to take the caution flag.
It was during this time, on April 3, 1977, that Darrell Waltrip won in a crazy finish at Darlington Raceway.
There were seven laps left in the Dixie 500 on this day and Waltrip was in fourth behind David Pearson, Bobby Allison and Richard Petty.
Allison was driving in relief of his brother Donnie and had managed to bring his No. 1 car back from being a lap down. And with seven laps to go, Allison passed Pearson for the lead on the backstretch.
That’s when chaos broke out exiting Turn 4 as J.D. McDuffie and Dick Brooks wrecked.
Debris from the wreck cut both ride-side tires on Allison’s car as Pearson backed off to avoid the carnage and Petty slowly navigated the mayhem.
Waltrip took the opposite approach and hammered the gas.
“I saw the wreck and knew it would take a long time to clean it up,” Waltrip said afterward according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era.” “I let it all hang out running back to the caution. I knew it was my only chance to win.”
Waltrip’s No. 88 car went from fourth to first in half a straightaway as he narrowly beat Allison to the line to take the caution flag first and assume the lead.
The race never resumed and Waltrip took the checkered flag.
In victory lane, Waltrip was told by ABC that NASCAR was withholding its winner declaration until it could look at pictures of the finish.
“I got one right here and I know I’m right,” Waltrip told ABC as he pointed to his head. “I beat him to the line (by) well over a car length. I know I did.”
It wound up being Waltrip’s fourth Cup win and his first on a speedway.
Also on this date:
1960: The Cup Series held its last of four races, held over nine years, at the Arizona State Fairgrounds. John Rostek won in what was his second of six career starts. The race also featured Ron Hornaday Sr. in one of his 17 Cup Series starts. NASCAR’s premier series wouldn’t return to Arizona until the inaugural event held at Phoenix Raceway in 1988.
1966: David Pearson won a Cup race at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway. It was the first of four races – including events at Columbia (S.C.) Speedway, Greenville-Pickens (S.C) Speedway and Bowman Gray (N.C) Stadium – that were held over eight days that Pearson swept.
1969: Bobby Isaac won at Columbia (S.C) Speedway, the first of three races held over six days he swept.
For Jeremy Clements, one of the best things about his hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina, is the Peach Blossom Diner.
When he was younger, Clements would make trips to the restaurant, located on Hospitality Drive, to hang out with some of his NASCAR predecessors who also called the city home.
Nine-time Cup winner Cotton Owens and 1973 Talladega 500 winner Dick Brooks were among the patrons.
There was also the “Silver Fox.”
Clements is no stranger to three-time Cup champion David Pearson and his family. His son Ricky Pearson served as Clements’ crew chief in the Xfinity Series in 2007 and from 2010-14.
A winner of 105 Cup races, Pearson wasn’t above trying to give Clements advice on how to manhandle a stock car.
“He’d always tell me how to drive and tell me what to do,” Clements tells NBC Sports, giving an example of an exchange.
“You need to just use one foot. One foot brake, one foot gas,” Pearson would say.
“David, there’s no way you can do that anymore, buddy.”
“I’ll get in that dang car and show you.”
But when the No. 51 Chevrolet of Jeremy Clements Racing arrives at Darlington Raceway on Friday, it will pay tribute not to the career of Pearson. It will be an ode to Clements’ grandfather, Crawford Clements.
The car will look like the one driven by A.J. Foyt when he won the 1964 Firecracker 400 at Daytona with Crawford Clements serving as his crew chief.
“I was really close to him,” Jeremy Clements says. “It was devastating when he passed. He’s the one that got me started. He would take my brother Jason and I to the go-kart track Buck Creek Speedway (in Chesnee, South Carolina) and race with us and do all the work and everything for years. I’ll never forget that. … I always have his name on the cars we race every week because he meant so much to me. He did a lot for a lot of people.
“He was a very smart man and I wish he was here today to see all this.”
NO REST FOR FIRST-TIME WINNERS
Clements is very tired.
Three days earlier, in his 256th start, the 32-year-old driver became the first Xfinity competitor with no Cup experience on a team with no Cup connections to win a race since 2006.
That causes the phone to ring. A lot.
“I’ve been going after it non-stop,” Clements says. “Haven’t slept the most. Everybody wants to talk to you. It kind of wears you out, but in a good way. I’m not complaining about it.”
He was not prepared for the attention one brings by winning in NASCAR.
“Heck no, man,” Clements says. “Not at all. It’s been crazy. I went into Road America thinking that we could run really well there because we had, and I like that place and the road courses were somewhere we could always run good. But I didn’t anticipate to win the race, honestly. It’s just been insane.”
Clements has tried to keep up with all the well wishes on social media, with congratulatory messages from Brad Keselowski, Darrell Waltrip, Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett.
“All those meant a ton,” Clements says. “I think I missed a few.”
The “coolest” acknowledgment he received was one he couldn’t miss. On Tuesday, a goody basket full of cheese, crackers and sausages arrived.
“It wasn’t a low-end basket,” Clements says. “It was a nice one.”
The basket was courtesy of Rick Hendrick.
“First of all, I’ve never even met Mr. Hendrick,” Clements says. “Second of all, for him to even think about me was amazing. To get our address and send something to us was pretty cool. He’s one of the best team owners in the garage.”
Even as the week of celebration unfolds around Clements, the work preparing for the rest of the season does as well.
The car Clements won with, built in 2008 and the oldest of the team’s seven-car fleet by a month, was up on a lift in the shop having its engine removed.
“When I was doing my victory stuff on the front stretch, I wanted to burn that thing down,” Clements says. “But the sad truth of that is that I couldn’t. I was like, ‘heck, we’ve probably got to use this motor next week.’ I had to be easy with it and take care of it. Truth be told, that engine had two races on it before that race.”
Clements and his team don’t yet know how much their winner’s gross will be. They’ll find out Friday and instantly start spending it at Darlington.
“You need probably 15, 16 grand worth of tires there,” Clements says. “It’s going to be a good payday for sure but it’s not going to be something we can just go out and start buying cars and stuff because everything’s so expensive.
“It’s crazy how much, that’s just life in general I guess. It’s like an axle for our cars are $225 a piece and you need them every week, but that’s just one little thing, you know? It takes a lot of individual parts and all of them cost a lot.”
The team, owned by his father Tony Clements, has already made purchases they hope will benefit them in their unexpected position of having qualified for the Xfinity playoffs, which begin Sept. 23 at Kentucky Speedway.
Even before Road America they had acquired two newer composite body cars from Richard Childress Racing. They’ll first run one next weekend at Richmond.
No matter how things go for Jeremy Clements once the playoffs start, he’s “playing with house money” after Road America.
“I’m not going to get too worked up about it,” Clements says. “We’re going to go give her hell and do the absolute freakin’ best we can. But I don’t want to get too boiled up about it if we don’t do the best and we don’t make it to the next round. I’m not saying we’re not gonna, I’m just saying we’re playing with house money. In my opinion it’s just icing on the cake.”
‘LOOK AT ME. LET’S GO’
When Clements took the white flag at Road America, he started getting chills, goosebumps and knots in his stomach.
First, he had no idea how after spinning with Tifft and briefly stalling out he still had the lead. Also, as he made his final lap around the 4-mile road course, his mind began racing.
“Just honestly started thinking about what do I even do if we win?” Clements says. “What do I say and who do I need to thank?”
When he finally got to victory lane, he had the presence of mind to give a shout out to any big team owners that were paying attention.
“I want to drive for a big team, but it hasn’t been the way it’s gone,” Clements told NBC. “I try to keep doing this, to keep my name out here getting as much experience as I can in case I do get the call. To any big team guys. Look at me. Let’s go.”
For Clements, NASCAR has always been his goal since his days of watching Days of Thunder on a TV in the back of a van on the way to go-kart tracks to get “amped up.”
In the few days since his win, when not talking with the press, Clements has reached out to owners.
“They say ‘we’ve paid attention to you before,’ but at the end of the day, they need money,” Clements says. “There’s hardly anybody getting opportunities these days that didn’t bring some kind of money to get them in there. That’s the bad part about it. It’s been like that for years.”
But Clements isn’t inclined to give up on his dream, especially after the biggest win of his racing career. If his career had come to an end after Sunday, he still wouldn’t be satisfied.
“I don’t think I would be pleased until I got that break and that’s what I’m still working on,” Clements says.
But before he can continue to do that at Darlington in his tribute to his grandfather, he’s going to enjoy the perks of being a first-time winner as long as he can.
“I don’t think I’ve bought a meal yet this week so far,” Clements says. “Hopin’ to continue that streak.”