Fonty Flock

April 29 in NASCAR: Rusty Wallace honors Dale Sr. after win on 50th birthday

Leave a comment

On April 29, 2001, the Cup Series held its annual race at the 2-mile track formally known as California Speedway.

Just over two months had passed since the death of Dale Earnhardt in a crash on the final lap of the Daytona 500 and feelings surrounding the tragedy were still fresh on what would have been his 50th birthday.

Rusty Wallace, one of his long-time rivals and friends, made sure Earnhardt got his due after holding off Jeff Gordon to get the win.

There were no celebratory burnouts by Wallace. Instead, a crew member met him on the track and delivered an Earnhardt flag. Wallace drove around the track as it waved outside his window.

It was sadly a familiar sight.

Just over eight years earlier in 1993, Wallace had won the Cup Series race at Bristol following the death of Alan Kulwicki in a plane crash earlier in the week. Afterward, Wallace performed Kulwicki’s trademark “Polish Victory Lap.”

In November, Wallace and Earnhardt would honor not just Kulwicki, but Davey Allison, who died in July from injuries sustained in a helicopter crash. After Wallace won the season finale at Atlanta and Earnhardt clinched his sixth title, the two performed the “Polish Victory Lap” as Wallace held an Allison flag and Earnhardt held a Kulwicki flag.

“It was kind of an emotional feeling,” Wallace told Fox after his 2001 win. “(Earnhardt) was such a great friend of mine and such a great family. … I really would have liked to have had Richard Childress riding with me that lap.”

Also on this date:

1951: Fonty Flock led every lap to win a Grand National race at North Wilkesboro. Lou Figaro, driving in relief of Dale Williams, finished ninth in a car that had its hood stuck in the upright position, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Beginning.”

1962: Bobby Johns led 430 of 500 laps to win at Bristol by six laps over Fireball Roberts. According to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Superspeedway Boom,” Roberts finished second after he lost 12 laps in the pits making repairs, only to make up six of them under green flag conditions.

1984: Geoffrey Bodine beat Ron Bouchard by six seconds at Martinsville to score his first Cup Series win and also the first win for Hendrick Motorsports. It came in the team’s eighth Cup race.

1990: A week after his brother Brett earned his first career Cup win at North Wilkesboro, Geoffrey Bodine won at Martinsville to earn his first win for owner Junior Johnson. It was the first time brothers won consecutive races since Donnie and Bobby Allison did it in 1978.

April 19 in NASCAR: Lee Petty wins at Richmond as Flocks boycott race

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Today would have seen the Cup Series hold its 128th race at Richmond Raceway.

The race would have fallen on the same day that Richmond hosted its inaugural event in 1953.

Then, instead of a .750-mile paved short track, NASCAR’s pioneers competed on a half-mile dirt track at the Atlantic Rural Fairgrounds.

According to the next day’s Richmond Times-Dispatch, about 5,000 fans watched Lee Petty claim the win. He took the lead with 10 laps to go and went on to beat Dick Rathmann (after an evaluation of scoring cards resulted in Buck Baker being moved back to third).

The race also was highlighted by who wasn’t in it.

Brothers Tim and Fonty Flock boycotted the event. When it came to qualifying, the Flocks had wanted to wait for track conditions to improve before they made their attempts. But after NASCAR gave all drivers a 30-minute window in which to make their runs, the Flocks refused. NASCAR then asked them to start from the rear of the field, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Beginning.” The Flocks objected, packed up and left.

Also on this this date:

1964: Fred Lorenzen crossed the finish to win at North Wilkesboro just in time. His engine almost immediately blew after coughing its way through the final five laps, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Superspeedway Boom.” Lorenzen survived to beat Ned Jarrett by about 200 yards.

1997: Steve Park led the final 71 laps to win the Xfinity Series race at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville. Park became the first driver not named Dale Earnhardt to win in the Xfinity Series for Dale Earnhardt, Inc.

1998: Ron Hornaday Jr. passed Jack Sprague with five laps to go and won a Truck Series race at Phoenix Raceway.

2010: Denny Hamlin took the lead on a restart with 12 laps to go and led the rest of the way to win at Texas Motor Speedway over Jimmie Johnson. It was Hamlin’s second of eight wins that season.

2015: Matt Kenseth won at Bristol Motor Speedway in a race named after NASCAR reporter Steve Byrnes, who would pass away two days later from cancer.

March 26 in NASCAR History: Matt Kenseth turns Jeff Gordon, Gordon shoves back

Leave a comment

Bristol Motor Speedway is used to fireworks, and the Food City 500 on March 26, 2006, was no exception.

It began with five laps to go with Matt Kenseth leading Kurt Busch, winner of four of the last eight Bristol races.

Busch, in Team Penske’s No. 2 Ford, got into Kenseth’s rear bumper, causing Kenseth to get wicked sideways and letting Busch rocket by as Kenseth fell to third in front of Jeff Gordon.

With two laps to go, Gordon got Kenseth loose exiting Turn 4 and passed him.

As they raced through Turns 1 and 2 on the last lap, Kenseth returned the favor and sent Gordon into a spin.

Meanwhile, Busch outran Kevin Harvick to the take the checkered flag.

During the cool-down lap, Kenseth showed his own displeasure by quickly driving up to Busch and veering toward him, but not making contact.

Then, as Busch performed snow angels on the frontstretch (it had snowed in the area that weekend), Gordon exited his car with his helmet still on, made a beeline for Kenseth and gave him a hard shove.

“Kenseth got shuffled out and you know, he’s holding guys up,” Gordon told Fox. “I got to him a couple times and showed my nose and he shut the door on me. The next time I got the opportunity I definitely moved him, but I didn’t wreck him. We went down into (Turn) 1 afterwards and he just wrecked me. I’m sure he didn’t mean to do it and all that stuff, but I wasn’t happy about it and I showed it to him after the race. … That stuff rarely ever happens with him. I’m going to give back to him what he gives to me.”

Also on this date:

1955: Fonty Flock, driving a No. 14 car owned by Frank Christian, won a premier series race at Columbia Speedway in Cayce, South Carolina. Flock became the first driver to win a race for Chevrolet in NASCAR’s top series.

1961: Bob Burdick only made 15 Cup Series starts in his career, but he left an impression. At Atlanta this year, Burdick led 44 of 334 laps to score an upset win. According to “NASCAR: The Complete History,” he did so in an unsponsored Pontiac car on used tires and with an inexperienced crew in the pits. He beat Rex White and Ralph Earnhardt.

1972: After making up seven seconds in the last 30 laps, Bobby Allison beat A.J. Foyt by about five car lengths to win at Atlanta. Allison earned Chevrolet’s first win on a speedway since 1963. Allison raced for Junior Johnson, who won that 1963 race at Charlotte.

1995:  After 314 career Cup Series starts, Sterling Marlin earned his first win on a non-restrictor plate track with a victory at Darlington. His first two Cup wins were back-to-back in the Daytona 500 in 1994-95.

2000: Rusty Wallace claimed his eighth career win at Bristol, which also marked his 50th Cup Series win.

Martin Truex Jr: ‘I still pinch myself’ three years into dominance with Furniture Row

Leave a comment

As Martin Truex Jr. stood in the back of a truck riding around Kentucky Speedway before last Saturday’s Cup race, a fan called out to the 2017 champion.

“Let somebody else win!” he yelled.

After a beat, Truex responded with a chuckle, “No!”

Truex stayed true to his word. A few hours later, the Furniture Row Racing driver took the checkered flag to claim his fourth win of the season.

His triumph over Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski took his career win total to 19 – tying him on the all-time wins list with Joey Logano, 2019 Hall of Fame inductee Davey Allison, Greg Biffle, Hall of Famer Buddy Baker and Fonty Flock.

The victory is the 17th for the No. 78 team since 2015. Truex leads all drivers in wins since 2016 with 16.

For a driver who only won twice in his first nine full-time seasons, Truex said “I still pinch myself” over his dominance of the sport.

He doesn’t lead the series in wins after 19 races. That goes to Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, who are tied at five wins each.

This marks the first time since 1974 that three drivers have won four or more races at this point in a season.

“I think all three of us have great teams,” Truex said after his win. “Those two guys are great drivers. Obviously, I have a lot of respect for them. It’s pretty amazing to be a part of this group, honestly. I think when I was a kid and you (saw) Dale (Earnhardt) and Rusty (Wallace) and guys like that, Terry Labonte and you had guys that just dominated and won everything, and watching them, it was like, ‘Man, that’s so cool, they’re heroes and they’re such a big deal,’ and to think that I’m one of those guys this year and I guess last year, too, is just ‑‑ it’s amazing to me.”

Even after he won his first Cup title last November, it didn’t occur to him until almost a month later that he will one day be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame alongside Earnhardt, Wallace and Labonte.

Truex joined Furniture Row Racing in 2014 after losing his ride at Michael Waltrip Racing, a casualty of the race manipulation scandal involving MWR in the 2013 regular season finale at Richmond Raceway.

That year, Truex went winless, led one lap and finished 24th in the standings.

The following season Truex was paired with rookie crew chief Cole Pearn. The duo won one race, earned eight top fives and made the Championship 4.

In their 126 races together, the duo has put together a record comparable to other great driver-crew chief parings in Cup history.

“Really the last three years have been just having the time of my life and just lucky to have great people around us, a great car owner (Barney Visser),” Truex said. “Just feel really lucky.  I’ve been on the other side of it before where teams were struggling and struggled to get in position to win races, and having a lot of things kind of going against you and kind of fighting that uphill battle.

“So it’s amazing to be on this side of it. I can’t tell you how proud I am of all the guys on our team and what they’ve done, and I honestly just enjoy every single one of these wins like it’s my first because you never know when they’re going to come to an end.  You never know when you’re going to have your last one. You never know what’s going to happen next. Just trying to ride the wave of momentum and enjoy it all, and my team is just so badass, I can’t even explain it.”

Truex, 38, “always felt” he “could get the job done” during the early years of his Cup career, spent with Dale Earnhardt Inc. and then MWR.

“I had enough glimpses of really good days or glimpses of greatness that I think it just kept me alive, kept me hungry enough to keep fighting for it,” said Truex, who won two Xfinity championships before moving to Cup. “I think through the years there was just ‑‑ for me personally, and I don’t know what everybody else thought, I know I had some people that probably didn’t think I was that good.

“That’s part of this deal.  You’re only as good as your last race. And if you’re not getting results now, people question your ability.  … For me personally, I always (felt) like I could be a good driver, be a great driver.  I never knew I’d get to where I was last year, and I never really knew I could go on a championship run and win (16) races in three years … That’s been amazing.”