Jeremy Mayfield

Top 5 NASCAR moments from Dover International Speedway

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Dover International Speedway, AKA “The Monster Mile,” has been on the NASCAR circuit since 1969 and hosted 192 races across all three national series.

As we’ve done with with MiamiTexasBristol, former NASCAR tracks, Richmond and Talladega, we’re taking a look at the top five NASCAR moments from the one-mile track.

Let’s get started.

 1) Dale Jr. wins after 9/11

Twelve days after the world changed with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the NASCAR Cup Series returned to racing.

After the postponement of a race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the series took the green flag at Dover with a field of full of patriotic paint schemes.

After leading 193 of 400 laps, Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the checkered flag for his second emotional win of the year, following his victory at Daytona two months earlier in the first Cup race there since his father’s death after a last-lap crash in the Daytona 500.

Earnhardt celebrated his Dover win by parading around the track with a large American flag.

 2) 1 in 863 (1981)

Team owner Junie Donlavey fielded 863 entries in the Cup Series, from the Oct. 15, 1950 race at Martinsville Speedway to the Oct. 13, 2002 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

In-between, cars owned by the Virginia-native went to Victory Lane just once.

It took 31 years for it to happen and it came on May 17, 1981.

Jody Ridley, a native of Chatsworth, Georgia, piloted Donlavey’s No. 90 Ford.

Ridley’s surprise win came after what NASCAR admitted was “scoring communications difficulty” during the last 50 laps around the 1-mile track, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era.”

Neil Bonnett had led 403 laps before his engine expired, giving the lead to Cale Yarborough, who was scored as leading Ridley by five laps. Yarborough’s engine then expired with 20 laps to go, giving the presumed lead to Ridley, who won over Bobby Allison.

Scoring mixups included D.K. Ulrich being scored 14 laps down in fourth with 10 laps to go before finishing nine laps down.

Allison’s team protested the outcome, saying they finished a lap ahead of Ridley. But Ridley’s win was upheld 20 minutes after the race upon a review of scoring cards.

Ridley wouldn’t win again in his Cup career, which ended in 1986.

 3. Back in the saddle (2006)

Jeff Burton was in a significant drought.

He hadn’t visited Victory Lane in the Cup Series in almost five years, last winning in the October 2001 race at Phoenix Raceway deep into his run with Roush Fenway Racing.

But on Sept. 24, 2006, Burton was in his second full-time season with Richard Childress Racing, having moved there late in the 2004 season.

Burton put an end to his drought in decisive fashion, coming out on top following a riveting battle with former teammate Matt Kenseth inside 20 laps to go. Burton took the lead with six laps remaining and raced away as Kenseth ran out of gas four laps later.

4. Kyle Busch rains on Chase Elliott‘s parade (2017)

In 2017, Chase Elliott was three quarters of the way through his second full-time Cup season and had yet to visit Victory Lane.

His closest opportunity came in the October race at Dover.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver had led 138 of 400 laps and was the leader when he crossed the start-finish line with two laps to go.

But Elliott had two problems: lapped traffic and Kyle Busch.

The lapped traffic helped Busch catch Elliott and pass him in Turn 4 coming the white flag – on the outside.

Busch cruised to the win while Elliott would have to wait until the 2018 race at Watkins Glen to get victory No. 1.

 5. Ryan Newman: Lucky Dog (2003)

Many rules that define NASCAR heading into the 2020s had to start somewhere.

The “Lucky Dog,” where the first car a lap down gets its lap back when the caution is issued, was introduced in September 2003 at Dover. It was meant as a deterrent to keep drivers from racing back to the yellow. Now the field would be frozen.

While the new rule drew mostly praise from competitors, a driver who wasn’t exactly a fan of it was Ryan Newman.

“I understand where NASCAR is coming from, but the problem is, it has opened up a whole different can of worms when it comes to the gray area,” Newman said that week, according to The Charlotte Observer.

Newman started fifth and led 33 of the first 44 laps before he was forced to pit under green for a tire going down, putting him a lap down.

Newman returned to the lead lap on Lap 288 of 400 thanks to a debris caution. He then topped off on fuel three times before the race resumed. He regained the lead when he stayed out of the pits during a caution on Lap 328. He went the final 106 laps without pitting and led the last 73 laps, holding off Jeremy Mayfield to score his seventh win of the year.

Even with the victory, Newman voiced his displeasure with NASCAR’s new rule.

“I just don’t want to see guys get their lap back and not earn it,” Newman said according to The Associated Press. “Once we got the lap back it was just sort of a fuel mileage race.”

 

May 3 in NASCAR: Bobby Allison wrecks at ‘Dega, Davey earns 1st Cup win

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To paraphrase late President Franklin D. Roosevelt, May 3, 1987 will forever be a day that will live in NASCAR infamy.

Not only was it a day in which Bobby Allison was involved in a horrific wreck at Talladega Superspeedway, it was also the day that would begin NASCAR’s move to smaller carburetors and then restrictor plates at the superspeedways in Talladega and Daytona.

Allison was coming through the ‘Dega tri-oval 21 laps into the scheduled 188-lap race when the right rear tire on his Stavola Brothers Buick blew.

The car almost immediately became airborne and remained so for several seconds, spinning into and tearing up approximately 100 feet of catch fencing before landing on the track.

Bobby Allison was unhurt in a horrifying crash at the 1987 Winston 500. It took three hours for track officials to repair the fence.(Photo by ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images)

Several fans suffered mainly minor injuries. Allison emerged from the infield care center rattled and bruised but otherwise uninjured, telling ESPN:

“I’m okay. Very thankful for the good Lord that I’m not hurt and I hope nobody else down there is hurt too bad. I think I ran over something, I couldn’t really tell, something bounced under the car and the tire exploded. I think I ran over something and cut my right rear tire down and spun the car in the tri-oval and up in the air it went, around backwards and there was nothing I could do.”

Allison’s crash came four days after Bill Elliott set a speed record during qualifying that remains: 212.809 mph, in a Ford Thunderbird.

By comparison, just a week later, Bobby Rahal would win the pole for the 1987 Indianapolis 500 with a speed of 216.609 mph.

With a number of notables in the sport, including NASCAR Hall of Fame driver-turned-owner Junior Johnson, fearing speeds were reaching dangerous levels, NASCAR implemented smaller carburetors for the second races of that season at Daytona and Talladega.

The sanctioning body would introduce restrictor plates in 1988 to keep speeds down, a move that remained in place until last year, when the sport changed to tapered spacers as well as a larger spoiler, larger splitter and aero ducts added to the car to decrease speeds and lower the odds of cars going airborne.

Plate racing would bring with it drafting, cars driving in packs, and massive multi-car wrecks that simply became known as “the big one.”

As for the rest of the 1987 race at Talladega, after a three-hour red flag to repair the fence, the race resumed. Davey Allison would come back to lead 101 of the remaining 167 laps and take the checkered flag .78 of a second ahead of Terry Labonte, for the first of what would be 19 career NASCAR Cup victories.

The younger Allison, one of the youngest members of the fabled Alabama Gang, would earn three Cup and four ARCA wins, as well as an IROC victory, at ‘Dega in his career.

Sadly, Davey would also lose his life at the 2.66-mile racetrack in 1993 when the helicopter he was piloting crashed while attempting to land at the facility.

Also on this date:

1981: Following a last-lap pass, Bobby Allison edged Buddy Baker at the finish line by 0.1 seconds to win the Winston 500 at Talladega.

1992: Davey Allison won the Winston 500 at Talladega, leading 110 of 188 laps, including the last 71, beating Bill Elliott to the finish line by two car lengths. It was the third and final time the younger Allison would win a Cup race at his home track.

1998: Future NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin won at California Speedway, beating Jeremy Mayfield by nearly two seconds.

2003: Joe Nemechek won the Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond under caution due to rain, seven laps short of the scheduled 400 laps. It would be the third of four career Cup wins for Nemechek.

2008: Clint Bowyer earned the second of his 10 Cup wins to date, winning at Richmond by .439 seconds over Kyle Busch.

2015: Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Geico 500, his sixth and final Cup win at Talladega. He beat Jimmie Johnson by .158 seconds.

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Top 5 memorable moments from Richmond Raceway

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NASCAR would have visited Virginia this weekend for a trip to the “Action Track,” Richmond Raceway.

As we’ve done with Miami, Texas, Bristol and former NASCAR tracks, we’re taking a look at the most memorable moments from Richmond.

There were a lot to choose from and getting it down to just five was no easy task. Here’s what we came up with.

 1. “Where’s Kyle Petty!?” (1986)

In 1986, Kyle Petty was in his sixth year of full-time Cup competition and driving for Wood Brothers Racing when the series rolled into Richmond for its second race of the season. At the time, Petty was winless on the Cup circuit.

The late stages of the race were contested between Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip, with Petty running in fifth.

With four laps to go, Waltrip got underneath Earnhardt exiting Turn 2 and was about clear him as they reached Turn 3 when Earnhardt clipped his right rear and sent him into the wall.

The resulting chaos collected Waltrip, Earnhardt and four other cars.

“Whose going to win the race? Where’s Kyle Petty?!” Benny Parson bellowed on the TBS broadcast.

Petty eventually cruised by the accident scene to take the lead and his first Cup Series victory.

 2. Kyle Busch vs Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2008)

If you want to make a Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan upset, just mention the spring 2008 Cup race at Richmond.

Earnhardt entered the race winless since the 2006 edition of the same event and a long simmering feud with Kyle Busch finally reached its boiling point.

Denny Hamlin dominated the race, leading 381 laps. But Earnhardt took the lead on Lap 383 with a three-wide pass around Hamlin and Busch as Hamlin began having a tire go down.

Nine laps later, Hamlin stopped on the track and brought out the caution, setting up a restart with five laps to go with Earnhardt first and Busch second.

With three laps to go, Busch went to Earnhardt’s inside as they entered Turn 3, made contact with his left rear and sent Earnhardt into a spin.

Clint Bowyer took the lead in the commotion and would go on to win in overtime. Busch would need a police escort to leave the track.

Ten years later, Earnhardt and Busch discussed the events of that night on the Dale Jr. Download.

 3. Gordon, Wallace and The Red Menace (1998)

1998 was a really good year for Jeff Gordon.

If you don’t recall, the four-time Cup champion won a modern era record 13 races that year on his way to title No. 3.

But it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for Gordon that year. In the June race at Richmond, Gordon was the recipient of a little payback from Rusty Wallace. A year earlier at Bristol, Gordon had knocked Wallace out of the way on the last lap to win.

Now, with 29 laps to go at the “Action Track,” Wallace and Gordon battled for the lead. As they entered Turn 1, Gordon had the advantage.

As the field exited Turn 2, Gordon was in the wall as many the crowd cheered with approval.

That wasn’t the last notable event of the night.

With seven laps to go and Dale Jarrett leading, NASCAR flew the red flag to clean the track after a four-car wreck.

Up to that point, NASCAR typically did not stop races after late wrecks to ensure that races ended under green. NASCAR officials swore it wasn’t a sign of things to come, but eventually it would become the norm.

 4. Spingate (2013)

A lot happened in the fall 2013 race at Richmond that would have lasting ripple effects.

Michael Waltrip Racing was at the center of “Spingate,” which got its name from the alleged intentional spin conducted by Clint Bowyer in the closing laps of the race, part of a plan to get Bowyer’s teammate, Martin Truex Jr., into the playoffs.

The plan, while initially successful, backfired.

MWR was fined $300,000 by NASCAR, the largest fine in the sport’s history. Bowyer and Truex’s teams were docked 50 points each. Truex lost his playoff eligibility and was replaced by Ryan Newman.

It didn’t end there. Alleged coordination between Team Penske and Front Row Motorsports resulted in Jeff Gordon being added as a 13th driver to the playoff field the following weekend.

 5. Jeremy Mayfield wins to get into playoffs (2004)

NASCAR’s “Chase” playoff era started with a bang.

Jeremy Mayfield entered the regular season finale in 14th, needing 55 points or a second-place finish to make the 10-driver field.

Instead, Mayfield threw all the scenarios out the window by simply winning the darn thing.

Mayfield led 151 laps, including the final eight after Kurt Busch ran out of gas, and beat Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon to clinch a spot in the playoff field. Mayfield also ended a winless streak stretching back to 2000.

What the world was like when Kurt Busch last won at Bristol

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The jokes and observations began flying in the Bristol Motor Speedway media center not long after Kurt Busch won Saturday night’s Cup race.

It had been how long since Busch visited Victory Lane at the half-mile track?

Some media members had covered that race. Others – specifically this writer – had been *checks notes* a freshman in high school when Busch won the Food City 500 on March 26, 2006.

Oh, that long.

Twelve years have passed between Busch’s Bristol wins, the latest bringing him six career wins in “Thunder Valley.”

That fifth win, in Team Penske’s No. 2 Dodge, came in a very different time in NASCAR.

For one, that was two versions of Bristol ago. A year after his win, the track added progressive banking in the turns. That was then retrofitted in 2012, which resulted in the top groove often being the preferred lane.

“This track has been kicking my butt since they redid the concrete, reground the outside lane, then have been throwing the traction compound on the bottom lane,” Busch said. “It’s great to win on the old one and the new one.  It’s been a while.”

What else was going on in NASCAR when Busch claimed his fifth Bristol win? Get ready to feel the kind of nostalgia that will make you feel old in all the wrong ways.

– Even if you don’t remember Busch’s win in 2006, you might remember what happened on pit road after it. Jeff Gordon showed off his temper for the first time, when he shoved Matt Kenseth after Kenseth spun him with two laps to go.

Jimmie Johnson hadn’t even claimed his first of a record-tying seven Cup championships. He would go on to do so that year, beginning his stretch of five titles in a row.

– In the field for the Bristol race were three rookies by the name of Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer.

– Also in the field: Sterling Marlin, Terry Labonte, Mark Martin, Jeremy Mayfield and Kyle Petty.

Ken Schrader was driving the No. 21 Ford for Wood Brothers Racing.

– Nextel was the title sponsor for the Cup Series and would be through 2007. Sprint took over in 2008.

– The much maligned Car of Tomorrow was exactly a year away. It would make its part-time debut in the Food City 500, and race winner Kyle Busch (his first of seven wins at Bristol) did not like it.

Chase Elliott, Cup’s most recent first-time winner, was 9-years-old.

Pop Culture

Music

This is what was hot in the world of pop culture on March 26, 2008.

The No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 was “So Sick” by Ne-Yo, an artist I don’t remember and a song title I couldn’t have told you. But I definitely remember hearing this on the radio.

If that doesn’t jolt your memory of the time, “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt was the previous No. 1 song for a week and two weeks later, Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day” would start a five-week run as at the top before being the year-end No. 1 song.

2006 was a bad year for music.

Film

– The No. 1 movie at the box office that weekend was Denzel Washington’s “Inside Man.” It made $28.9 million and beat out Natalie Portman’s “V for for Vendetta” and the video game horror film “Stay Alive.”

Video Games

The Play Station 2 was in its last months as Sony’s primary gaming console. The Play Station 3 wouldn’t be released until November of that year.

Books

The top book on the New York Times’ bestseller list was “The 5th Horseman” James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. The following week, “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown would start its second, two-week stretch at the No. 1 book.