Junie Donlavey

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.”

 

Martin Truex Jr., Sherry Pollex win prestigious Myers Brothers Award

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Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. and girlfriend Sherry Pollex were selected as the recipient of the Myers Brothers Award Wednesday in Las Vegas.

The Myers Brothers Award, named for Billy and Bob Myers, honors those who have made outstanding contributions to the sport. The award, presented annually since 1958, is voted on by members of the National Motorsports Press Association.

WATCH: NBCSN to air special NASCAR America at 7 p.m. ET Thursday, followed by Cup Series Awards Show at 9 p.m. ET.

Truex and Pollex were honored for their charitable work around childhood and ovarian cancer that includes the Catwalk for a Cause, which was held an eight consecutive year and raised more than $550,000 this year, and their second annual “Drive for Teal & Gold.”

“I didn’t see that coming,” Truex said to Pollex on stage after accepting the award.

“I didn’t either,” Pollex said. “I’m going to try really hard not to cry. It’s been a crazy, crazy year for both of us. Personally and professionally with my cancer and …” she could not continue.

Truex then added: “This is definitely an unbelievable honor to receive this award. We definitely didn’t see it coming. Did not expect it. I think Sherry and I have been very fortunate in our lives to have all the things we needed, great families, great parents that raised us right and taught us right from wrong. I think they probably deserve a lot of the credit for us being who we are and being able to give back and help people. Being a part of this sport, it’s who we are.

“We are so proud of everybody. We’ve learned so much from past champions. Just everybody in this sport is willing to give back and willing to give their time to great causes. We don’t deserve all the credit for this. I think we’ve learned a lot of lessons from a lot of people in this room and a lot of people in this sport in general. We’re very fortunate and definitely lucky to be able to give our time to great causes, and I’m so proud of (Pollex) for her fight and her battle and what she’s been able to pull through and get through, and at the same time willing to help others to give her time. Just really, really proud of this. Thank you all very, very much.

“We’re humbled. We’re very lucky to be here, and we’re very proud of this.”

They both then said: “Thank you.”

Previous winners of the award include Ned Jarrett, Richard Petty, the Wood Brothers, Junie Donlavey, Kyle Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Mike Helton, Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., Benny Parsons, Barney Hall, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart.

Truex was named on 82 percent of the ballots cast for this year’s award. Others receiving votes were NASCAR team owner Jack Roush and seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson.

Other awards presented Wednesday at the Myers Brothers Awards included:

SMI Chairman Bruton Smith won the Buddy Shuman Award for contributions to the sport.

Chevrolet honored Dale Earnhardt Jr. with the Chevrolet Lifetime Achievement Award and donated a car for his foundation to auction.

NBC Sports and Fox Sports were jointly honored with the 2017 NASCAR Marketing Achievement Award.

“We are fortunate to have two world-class television partners dedicated to presenting our sport in new and innovative ways each weekend,” said Steve Phelps, EVP, Chief Global Sales and Marketing Officer. “Both FOX Sports and NBC Sports are deserving honorees, each delivering dynamic marketing campaigns that introduced our sport to new audiences and brought fans closer to our athletes than ever before.”

“NBC Sports is incredibly proud of our long-standing partnership with NASCAR, and we are thrilled to accept this award,” said Jenny Storms, Chief Marketing Officer, NBC Sports Group. “This prestigious honor is the direct result of an insights led strategy, combined with the passion and creativity of our team, to continue to connect and engage with fans in new and exciting ways.”

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Cinderella isn’t just for basketball; A look at memorable upset wins in NASCAR

Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images for NASCAR
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Cinderella can be found in any sport, but the notion becomes more prevalent this time of year with the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. With that in mind, who are among the biggest Cinderella winners in NASCAR’s history?

When I posted the question Friday on social media, the responses varied, ranging from Chris Buescher‘s win last year at Pocono to races that dated back to the 1960s.

Well, you’re not going to get everyone to agree but here are five that stand out to me.

 

The 1981 spring Dover race saw a driver, once seven laps behind the leaders, go on to win. Truly a Cinderella moment, but there’s more. It would be Jody Ridley’s only Cup win in 140 career starts. Also, it was car owner Junie Donlavey’s only victory in a NASCAR career that featured 863 starts over 45 years.

So how did it happen? Neil Bonnett dominated in the Wood Brothers’ car until his engine blew while he had a two-lap lead on the field with less than 50 laps left. Cale Yarborough inherited the lead and had a five-lap lead on Ridley but had an engine failure with less than 25 laps left. Ridley assumed the lead and went on to score the victory.

It was about to finally happen. After years of trying, Dale Earnhardt was set to win his first Daytona 500 in 1990. He took the lead after a restart with five laps to go and led going into Turn 3 on the final lap. That’s when everything changed. Earnhardt ran over debris and cut a tire. Derrike Cope, running second, took the lead and went on to win. Not only was it shocking how Cope won but that he was in that position to win. He had never scored a top-five finish in 71 previous Cup starts.

Cope went on to win at Dover later that season. That and the Daytona 500 are the only Cup wins he’s scored in 411 career series starts.

 

Tiny Lund arrived at Daytona in 1963 without a ride. Not a surprise for a driver who had not scored a top-five finish in the 28 Cup races he ran from 1960-62. That changed when Marvin Panch crashed his Maserati on the Daytona road course. The car flipped and burst into flames. Tiny Lund was among those who went to the crash scene and helped pull Panch out of the car. With Panch unable to run in the Daytona 500, the Wood Brothers selected Lund to drive the car. With one less pit stop than others – and running on the same set of tires for 500 miles – Lund scored his first career win in that Daytona 500, shocking the field.

 

Yes, Trevor Bayne led on the final restart of the 2011 Daytona 500 but he had Tony Stewart beside him, Bobby Labonte behind him in the second row and Mark Martin on the outside of the second row. With all that Cup experience surrounding Bayne, who really thought a kid who had turned 20 years old the day before could hold off those drivers and win the Daytona 500? Also, Bayne was making just his second career Cup start and was with the Wood Brothers, who were a part-time team and had last won a Cup race in 2001. All that didn’t matter. He won.

 

Furniture Row Racing was a single-car team. Unlike the majority of Cup teams, it wasn’t based around Charlotte, North Carolina, but in Colorado. Regan Smith was winless in 104 Cup starts before that night, yet he found himself out front after not pitting on Lap 360 of the 367-lap race. Smith held off Carl Edwards to win. It would be four more years until Furniture Row scored its next win.

So, those are five I picked. There were many others to choose from. Some suggested Pete Hamilton’s 1970 win in the Daytona 500. Others noted Lake Speed’s 1988 win at Darlington. There were votes for Brad Keselowki’s win at Talladega in 2009, his first career series win, and for Ron Bouchard (1981), Bobby Hillin Jr. (1986), Phil Parsons (1988) at Talladega. A few people also suggested Casey Mears‘ Coca-Cola win in 2007.

Go ahead and make your case for the biggest Cinderella win in NASCAR’s history.

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