Ernie Irvan

Dick Hutcherson
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May 2 in NASCAR: Junior Johnson win angers ‘Yankee’ Dick Hutcherson

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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

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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 three laps to go, the remaining pairings with a shot at the win were: Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle; Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.; Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick; Martin Truex Jr. and David Reutimann; Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin; Tony Stewart and David Gilliland; AJ Allmendinger and Paul Menard.

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.

Sonoma could be great opportunity for Cup drivers without wins

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Who is ready for another first-time winner this season in the Cup Series?

A poll taken of the Cup garage would probably bring back everyone but the six drivers who have hogged Victory Lane through the first 15 races of the season.

Divided among just three teams – Joe Gibbs Racing (nine wins), Team Penske (five) and Hendrick Motorsports (one) – variety among teams has not been in the cards so far.

Enter Sonoma Raceway.

NASCAR makes its first trip to a road course this season with the California circuit, which has been reconfigured for its 50th anniversary with the re-introduction of “The Carousel.”

Sonoma may be a prime opportunity for a winless driver to break through to Victory Lane, according to history.

In 12 of the last 16 seasons, dating back to 2002, the driver who visited victory lane in Sonoma was doing so for the first time that year.

Before 2002, it was done only four times in the track’s first 13 years of holding Cup races, with all four occurring before 1998, when the Cup Series stopped running on the “Carousel.”

Drivers in the field this year who will try to repeat history are Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer.

Harvick holds the distinction of being the most recent driver to get his first win of the season at Sonoma. He pulled it off in 2017.

Should he repeat the feat, it would be his first win since November’s Texas playoff race (17 races) and be Stewart-Haas Racing’s first of the year. He’d also join Ricky Rudd (1989, 2002) as the only drivers to achieve that twice.

Drivers who earned first win of the year at Sonoma

Event Date    Race Winner
6/25/2017    Kevin Harvick
6/26/2016    Tony Stewart (only win that year)
6/28/2015    Kyle Busch
6/23/2013    Martin Truex Jr. (only win)
6/24/2012    Clint Bowyer
6/26/2011    Kurt Busch
6/21/2009    Kasey Kahne
6/24/2007    Juan Pablo Montoya (only win)
6/25/2006    Jeff Gordon
6/26/2005    Tony Stewart
6/22/2003    Robby Gordon
6/23/2002    Ricky Rudd (only win)
5/4/1997    Mark Martin
5/16/1993    Geoff Bodine (only win)
6/7/1992    Ernie Irvan
6/11/1989    Ricky Rudd (only win)

NASCAR America: Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s greatest Bristol wins

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Bristol Motor Speedway has been on the NASCAR schedule since 1961 and for the first 18 years, no one managed to record their first NASCAR Cup win there. Until Dale Earnhardt Sr. came along.

On April 1, Earnhardt started ninth and drove through the field to take the lead for the first time on lap 139. He would lead the pack twice more, including the final 27 laps en route to victory.

Before his career was over, Earnhardt would win nine times on this bullring and forever etch his name in the track’s history.

“Bristol is a driver’s track,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said on Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America. “If I had to pick where dad would win his first race, it would be a short track.”

“I was there,” Kyle Petty said. “And I remember this, because this was a big moment. … I had started racing when Ricky Rudd came along, when your dad came along, when these younger drivers came along … This was a new breed of driver.”

Earnhardt’s ninth and final win came in 1999 and it’s one that will forever be part of Bristol’s highlight reel.

Terry Labonte took the lead from Earnhardt on the white flag lap, but was not able to get away from the No. 3. Coming off Turn 2, Earnhardt bumped Labonte and spun him out, saying later that he didn’t intend to wreck him, but only “rattle his cage.”

“That was a weird deal, because dad never got booed,” Earnhardt said. “But that night, he got booed. He got out of the car and the fans were really split down the middle. They were either cheering or booing. There was nobody sitting there silent. … And I could tell, in his eyes, that it made him a little uncomfortable. He wasn’t quite comfortable with being booed and what he did to Terry.”

Labonte joins Earnhardt on the Dale Jr. Download today on NBCSN at 5:30 p.m. ET to discuss the 1999 race.

Rusty Wallace (1986), Ernie Irvan (1990), Elliott Sadler (2001) and Kurt Busch (2002) would join Earnhardt in getting their first Cup win at Bristol.

For more, watch the video above.

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Kyle Busch pays tribute to Ernie Irvan with throwback scheme

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Kyle Busch revealed Wednesday on Twitter the paint scheme he will have on his car for the Sept. 2 Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Busch will pay tribute to Ernie Irvan and the original Skittles rainbow paint scheme Irvan drove in the 1990s. Irvan made his Cup debut in 1987 and raced through 1999. He suffered a brain injury in a crash at Michigan in 1994. He returned in 1995 and ran the full season in 1996. His career ended in 1999 after a crash at Michigan left him with a mild head injury. He announced his retirement two weeks later.

Irvan finished with 15 Cup victories, including the 1991 Daytona 500.