Joe Ruttman

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April 27 in NASCAR: Down 4 laps, Darrell Waltrip gets Martinsville win

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After starting from the pole, Darrell Waltrip was in control in the early stages of the April 27, 1980 Cup race at Martinsville.

Waltrip led until a caution on Lap 182 for a one-car spin. Waltrip then unexpectedly pit to put on tires as the field came to the green flag on Lap 185.

This violated a new rule put in place at short tracks by NASCAR. In an effort to cut costs for teams, tires couldn’t be changed under caution. Drivers had to take the green flag and pit the next time by.

The punishment for this violation was a two-lap penalty.

In addition to the penalty, Waltrip lost two more laps while getting his new tires.

“Everything was going real well and just had a slight driver error when I came into the pits,” Waltrip said during a mid-race rain delay, according to the following week’s Grand National Scene.

Darrell Waltrip celebrates his April 1980 Martinsville win. (Photo by ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images)

Waltrip was able to look on the bright side, saying “Everybody’s got to come in and change tires and we’re sitting there (during the delay) with four brand new tires.”

His comment proved prophetic.

Once the race resumed, Waltrip wouldn’t change tires the rest of the race. As other drivers had to pit under green for their second set of tires or were eliminated in accidents, Waltrip stayed out and regained the laps he lost. He took the lead on Lap 383 and led the rest of the way.

Also on this date:

1969: After being relieved by James Hylton for 48 laps in the middle of the race, Richard Petty got back into his No. 43 Ford to win at Martinsville. He beat Cale Yarborough, who was a relief driver himself, having taken over for David Pearson.

1986: Ricky Rudd led the final 149 laps to beat Joe Ruttman by one lap at Martinsville.

2013: Kevin Harvick passed teammate Jeff Burton coming to the white flag in an overtime restart and went on to win at Richmond. After the race, Tony Stewart and future teammate Kurt Busch rubbed fenders on the cool-down lap before getting into an argument in the garage.

April 24 in NASCAR: Terry Labonte gets Xfinity win in photo finish

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On April 24, 1999, NASCAR had to go to the video tape to determine who won the Xfinity Series race at Talladega.

According to The Associated Press, NASCAR asked potential winners Terry Labonte and Joe Nemechek to park their cars outside Victory Lane as it reviewed footage of their photo finish moments earlier.

Labonte had been third when the last lap began and he pulled even with Nemechek on the outside as they entered Turn 3 and raced back to the finish line.

NASCAR ruled Labonte won by .002 seconds. He only led the final lap of the 113-lap event.

Terry Labonte edges Joe Nemechek by .002 seconds to win the Xfinity race at Talladega on April 24, 1999 (Screenshot).

Labonte’s win, which came in a car with a backup engine, was his 11th and final Xfinity Series victory.

“I told them on the radio ‘I don’t know if I won or not, but it was close,'” Labonte told ABC Sports. “I’ve been in some close finishes here, but not that close.”

Also on this date:

1960: Lee Petty earned his 50th Grand National win in a shortened race at Asheville-Weaverville (N.C) Speedway. The race was ended by NASCAR after 167 laps due to hazardous conditions on the half-mile track’s paved surface, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Superspeedway Boom.”

1977: Cale Yarborough won a rain-shortened race at Martinsville for his fifth win in nine starts to begin the season. … Future Cup Series crew chief Paul Wolfe was born.

1983: Darrell Waltrip outran four other cars in a nine-lap shootout to win at Martinsville. Tim Richmond led 58 laps before he was held for five laps by NASCAR after his team put left-side tires on the right side. Ricky Rudd was fined $1,500 by NASCAR after repeatedly slamming into Joe Ruttman’s car on the cool down lap and on pit road, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era.”

1999: Dale Earnhardt passed Rusty Wallace coming to the checkered flag to win race No. 2 of the International Race of Champions season. Earnhardt led only the last lap, just like in his IROC win earlier that year in February at Daytona.

2016: Carl Edwards performed a bump-and-run on teammate Kyle Busch in the final turn to win at Richmond.

Coffee with Kyle: Richard Petty and Dale Inman went separate ways

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With the end of the 2018 season, Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus have parted ways. Johnson has a new crew chief in Kevin Meendering; Knaus has a new driver in William Byron.

The latest edition of “Coffee with Kyle” takes a look at another legendary pairing that split up: Richard Petty and his cousin Dale Inman.

Petty and Inman both believe Knaus has a better chance at winning another championship than Johnson. They came to that conclusion based on experience.

Petty and Inman combined for 166 wins and seven championships before they split up.

“(Going our separate ways) was probably one of the best things that ever happened to both of us,” Petty said. “Because once we got away from each other we realized how we depended on each other.”

Separating might have been good for them personally, but Petty’s performance was never the same. He went on to win just two more races.

Petty’s 199th win came at Dover in May 1984.

“Dover was a big win,” Petty said. “It had been a while since we won. But then everything was ‘the next race, the next race, the next race’ before we went to Daytona. Everybody was expecting the 200 anytime. We was too. But it couldn’t have been any better than for us to win the 200th race July the 4th in front of the President of the United States (Ronald Reagan).

“If you wrote a script, nobody would have bought it.”

Part 1: Richard Petty: Racing ‘took us to the real world’
Part 2: The story behind debut of Plymouth’s NASCAR Superbird

Inman was hired by Rod Osterlund in 1980 and crewed the car for Dale Earnhardt and later Joe Ruttman without another win. 

“Then we got Tim Richmond and what a natural he was,” Inman said. “Didn’t know nothing about a race car. … Even Earnhardt respected him a lot, because he came in and raced Earnhardt.”

In 1982 Richmond won twice at Riverside. Those were the first wins for Inman after leaving Petty Enterprises.

Inman scored another championship with Terry Labonte in 1984. They won on consistency with only two wins but top fives in 17 of 30 races that year.

Regarding a short-lived pairing with Earnhardt, Inman said: “He couldn’t control himself. Darrell Waltrip intimidated him so bad it was unreal. The bad thing on my resume was I never won a race with Earnhardt.”

The episode can be found on the NBC Sports YouTube page.

Click here to watch the “Coffee with Kyle” episode with Tony Stewart.