Geoffrey Bodine

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

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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 26 in NASCAR: Morgan Shepherd’s upset win at Martinsville

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While Morgan Shepherd‘s first Cup win came relatively early, in his 15th career start, his win at Martinsville Speedway on April 26, 1981 came 11 years after his first start.

Shepherd, a rookie at the age of 39, surprised the field when he led 203 of 500 laps to claim the victory on the short track.

Driving the No. 5 Pontiac for owner Cliff Stewart, Shepherd beat Neil Bonnett, who was the only other driver on the lead lap, by 16 seconds.

It was the first Cup Series win by Pontiac since a victory by Joe Weatherly in October 1963.

“It didn’t sink in until I came around for the checkered flag,” Shepherd said according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era.” “I almost cried.”

Shepherd would go on to make 517 starts in the Cup Series through 2014. He’d win only three more times, with each one occurring at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Also on this date:

1964: Fred Lorenzen led all but 13 laps to win at Martinsville over Marvin Panch for his fourth straight win. He’d win in his next start two races later at Darlington. Lorenzen won eight times in 16 starts that year.

1987: With a victory at Martinsville, Dale Earnhardt completed a run of four wins in a row. He took the lead with 17 laps to go when leader Geoffrey Bodine spun from contact with Kyle Petty.

1992: Mark Martin won at Martinsville. He led the final 27 laps after Brett Bodine’s suspension broke. It was the 12th straight Cup win for Ford.

2009: Brad Keselowski won his first career Cup Series race, scoring the victory at Talladega after contact with race leader Carl Edwards sent Edwards into the fence coming to the checkered flag.

2014: Joey Logano passed Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth in half a lap and led the final four laps to win at Richmond.

April 10 in NASCAR: Bill Elliott gets spun late, wins at Bristol

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One thing stands out among the 44 Cup Series wins that Bill Elliott earned in his career.

The 1988 champion made a name for himself dominating on superspeedways and other tracks 1 mile and longer, but he only won twice on short tracks.

The first came in dramatic fashion early in his championship season in the Valleydale Meats 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

After starting 13th, Elliott took the lead on Lap 379. He led the next 113 laps and along the way picked up a tail in the form of Geoffrey Bodine.

With nine laps to go, Bodine moved to Elliott’s inside as they entered Turn 3. Bodine’s No. 5 Chevrolet then nosed up into Elliott’s left-rear quarter panel, sending Elliott into a smokey spin.

The incident brought out the caution as Bodine took the lead.

During the caution, Elliott and the third-place car of Mark Martin took four new tires in the pits. Luckily for them, there were only three cars on the lead lap.

Elliott beat Martin off pit road and they lined up behind Bodine in the outside lane with as the race resumed with four laps to go.

Bodine’s lead would last just a lap-and-a-half. On his four new tires, Elliott eased his way underneath Bodine in Turns 1 and 2 with three laps to go. Bodine edged Elliott down the backstretch, but in Turn 3 and 4 Elliott bounced lightly off him, causing Bodine to get out of shape as Elliott took the lead and then the win.

“I didn’t have any doubt at all, I was going to get by him one way or the other,” Elliott told ESPN.

Elliott’s only other short-track win would come in 1992 at Richmond.

Also on this date:

1960: In his third career start at the track, Richard Petty won his first of 15 career Cup races at Martinsville Speedway, winning over Jimmy Massey and Glen Wood. It was his second of 200 career wins.

1971: Bobby Isaac led 181 of 200 laps to win in his fourth straight start at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in South Carolina. Isaac did it in front of roughly 8,500 fans in attendance and an audience watching on ABC, which aired it live flag-to-flag, eight years before the 1979 Daytona 500.

1980 – Kasey Kahne, future 18-time Cup winner, was born

2010Ryan Newman ended a 77-race winless streak with a victory at Phoenix Raceway over Jeff Gordon. It was his first victory with Stewart-Haas Racing and his first victory since the 2008 Daytona 500.

Atlanta Motor Speedway repairs, reseals track ahead of February race

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Nearly two years after a scheduled repave of Atlanta Motor Speedway was delayed at the drivers’ request, the track continues to repair the old surface.

On Friday, Atlanta posted a video on Twitter detailing the work underway to repair and reseal the 21-year old surface.

Atlanta Motor Speedway was last repaved in 1997.

Scheduled to be repaved in late March 2017, a hue and cry rose up from NASCAR’s drivers.

At the time, speedway President Ed Clark said: “There’s no question that the surface is worn out, but probably the most powerful lobby this side of Washington, D.C., was the biggest influence. They kind of put the pressure on. I understand.”

And the repave was called off.

MORE: Atlanta Motor Speedway to delay repave at least a year (March, 2017)
MORE: Atlanta Motor Speedway will be repaved after March race (January 2017)

After the 1997 repaving, Geoffrey Bodine set a pole record lap of 197.478 mph in the November race.

In 2018, the pole speed fell to 184.652 mph when Kyle Busch posted the fastest lap in Round 3 of qualification.

When announcing the delay in repaving the track, Clark also noted that repaving would eventually be inevitable, suggesting at the time that they might get only one more year out of the surface.

“All you’ve got to do is walk out there and look at it,” Clark said. “It is absolutely worn out. But if the drivers say, hey our choice is to race on this surface as it is ….

“There comes a point (when a repave is needed). We do have a few drainage issues we do need to correct, some other things when the time comes. Right now, we’re going to get through 2018 and evaluate and see if that is the time or when is it.”

On Feb. 24, drivers will have at least one more season to battle the abrasive surface.

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Monster Energy All-Star Race format to go back to ‘One Hot Night’ roots

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This year’s Monster Energy All-Star race format on May 20 will go back in time.

NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway announced Tuesday that the 25th anniversary of the first All-Star Race held at night will be run with the same format as the first race that was held in 1992.

The “Silver Anniversary Gold Rush” of the iconic “One Hot Night” will once again have a $1 million prize to the winning team.

Here’s how this year’s format shapes up:

  • The race will feature four stages (20 laps / 20 laps / 20 laps / 10 laps), totaling 70 laps, an ode to the 1992 edition of the same distance.
  • The final 10-lap stage will feature just 10 cars/drivers who earned their way into the main event, particularly with how they finished collectively in the prior three 20-lap stages that evening.
  • All three stage winners will be locked into the 10-lap finale for the big prize, but with a caveat – they all must be on the lead lap at the end of the third stage.
  • The cars with the best average finish in the first three stages will make up the remaining spots needed to fill the 10-car final stage.
  • The 10 cars in the fourth and final stage will be lined up by average finish of the first three stages and given the option to pit. Exit off pit road determines starting order for final stage.

“This new 70-lap format pays tribute to the 25th anniversary of ‘One Hot Night’ while pushing the drivers to the brink of insanity with the chances they’ll take to win $1 million,” Charlotte Motor Speedway president and general manager Marcus Smith said in a media release. “I’m as ready as our fans for a May 20 Saturday night shootout where only a daredevil behind the wheel truly has a shot at Victory Lane.”

There’s also one added bonus of sorts: each team will receive one set of “softer tires,” to be used at their discretion. Softer tires provide cars more grip and speed, but there’s one caveat: if a team holds off using its set of softer tires until the final stage, then its car will start the 10-car/10-lap finale at the back of the field.

According to Goodyear, “the Option set-up is projected to be three- to five-tenths of a second faster per lap, out of the box.” Also, instead of Goodyear’s traditional yellow letters – which will remain on the Prime tires to be used in both the All-Star events and the Coca-Cola 600 on May 27 – the Option tires will feature bold, green lettering.

Several drivers have already clinched a starting spot in the All-Star Race based upon:

  • * Drivers who won a points event in either 2016 or 2017.
  • * Drivers who have won a previous Monster Energy All-Star Race and are competing full-time in 2017
  • * Drivers who have won a past Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship and are competing fulltime in 2017.

Those drivers include: Chris Buescher, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.

 

“The Monster Energy All-Star Race is designed to be fun for fans, showcasing the best drivers and race teams in NASCAR,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “With the effort that Goodyear has put into this race with multiple tire compounds, I am excited to see how the stages play out, especially the final 10-car, 10-lap sprint to the checkered flag.”

Qualifying takes place on Friday, May 19, including the “no speed limit” four-tire pit stop.

According to the media release, “Each team will have three timed laps, one of which will include a mandatory four-tire pit stop with no pit-road speed limits enforced. The five quickest teams will advance to the final round of qualifying to determine starting positions one through five. The team that completes the fastest stop will earn the Pit Crew Competition Award.”

There will be two other ways for drivers to advance to the All-Star Race:

1.) The traditional Monster Energy Open will be held prior to the All-Star Race earlier in the evening of May 20. The Open will feature three stages of 20, 20 and 10 laps. The winner of each stage will advance to the All-Star Race, Qualifying for the Open will take place on Friday, May 19, where the field will be set by two rounds of traditional knock-out qualifying.

2) By winning the popular Fan Vote.

Lastly, both the Monster Energy Open and Monster Energy All-Star Race will be televised on Fox Sports 1 starting at 6 p.m. ET on May 20. The Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90 will carry the radio broadcasts of both events, as well.

Here’s a list of all winners of the All-Star Race, dating back to its inception in 1985:

1985 Darrell Waltrip
1986 Bill Elliott
1987 Dale Earnhardt
1988 Terry Labonte
1989 Rusty Wallace
1990 Dale Earnhardt
1991 Davey Allison
1992 Davey Allison (first night race)
1993 Dale Earnhardt
1994 Geoffrey Bodine
1995 Jeff Gordon
1996 Michael Waltrip
1997 Jeff Gordon
1998 Mark Martin
1999 Terry Labonte
2000 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2001 Jeff Gordon
2002 Ryan Newman
2003 Jimmie Johnson
2004 Matt Kenseth
2005 Mark Martin
2006 Jimmie Johnson
2007 Kevin Harvick
2008 Kasey Kahne
2009 Tony Stewart
2010 Kurt Busch
2011 Carl Edwards
2012 Jimmie Johnson
2013 Jimmie Johnson
2014 Jamie McMurray
2015 Denny Hamlin
2016 Joey Logano

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