Larry McReynolds

April 12 in NASCAR: Hurt Allison holds off Wallace at North Wilkesboro

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On April 12, 1992, Davey Allison was playing hurt and driving an overhauled race car.

Even that wasn’t enough to keep Allison out of victory lane for the spring race at North Wilkesboro.

The race came a week after Allison hurt a shoulder in a crash at Bristol Motor Speedway.

With Jimmy Hensley on standby in case Allison needed to be relieved, Allison started seventh in a car crew chief Larry McReynolds had “pretty much rebuilt” overnight, swapping out four shocks, three springs and the sway bar, according to the next day’s Charlotte Observer.

Hensley was never needed and Allison’s car proved reliable.

The Robert Yates Racing driver took the lead for the first time on Lap 313 when his team got him off pit road first ahead of Rusty Wallace.

They would do it again on Lap 346 and the remaining 50 green flag laps saw Wallace give chase after Allison.

It would prove futile as Allison edged Wallace by .15 seconds to claim his second win of the year following his Daytona 500 victory.

His shoulder wasn’t the only thing bothering Allison over the course of the afternoon.

“My left leg starting cramping real bad in my thigh and my calf (during the last caution) and I couldn’t stretch my leg out, so I couldn’t rub either one of them to get them worked out,” Allison told ESPN. “I just kept mashing on the foot rest down here and it finally went away. When they threw the green flag it was just take care of the race car and take care of myself the rest of the day.”

The victory was the 11th straight Cup win for Ford dating back to 1991. Ford would win two more races before Dale Earnhardt put an end to the streak in the Coca-Cola 600.

Also on this date:

1952: Buck Baker won a 100-mile race in Columbia, South Carolina. During the race, driver E.C. Ramsey crashed into a passenger car as it tried to cross the track during the race, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Beginning.” Ramsey then climbed from his vehicle and ran over to the passenger car, where he proceeded to beat up its intoxicated driver until the police intervened.

1958: A night after they finished 1-2 in a race in Columbia, Speedy Thompson and Jack Smith repeated the effort in a race at Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

1970: Pete Hamilton led the final 17 laps to win at Talladega. At one point in the race, Cale Yarborough drove for five laps without a windshield after his Wood Brothers Racing removed it. It had been damaged when a fan on the backstretch threw a beer bottle and it impacted on the windshield. “I had to cover my nose and my mouth with one hand so I could breathe,” Yarborough said according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: Big Bucks and Boycotts.”

1981: It was a day for notable firsts at Darlington Raceway. Bill Elliott started from his first of 55 career Cup poles in the CRC Chemicals Rebel 500. It also saw the first outing of Harry Gant as the driver of Hal Needham’s Skoal Bandit car. It would become a permanent pairing four races later at Dover.

Dave Marcis on being friends with Dale Earnhardt and spinning him

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Editor’s note: This is part two of our interview with NASCAR driver Dave Marcis, where he discusses his relationship with Dale Earnhardt. Part one ran Monday and can be read by clicking here.

It was one of the more unlikely friendships in NASCAR, a guy from Northern Wisconsin and a guy from Kannapolis, North Carolina.

One had a pronounced Wisconsin accent – which remains even after living near Asheville, N.C. for the last 50 years – and was kind of quiet. And when it came to work, he’d rather work for himself than anyone else, even if it meant struggling financially.

The other one had a Southern drawl and countless smirks that belied a confidence – some might call it arrogance – that he was the best behind the wheel. The high school dropout also became a master at business to go along with his success on the track.

Dave Marcis, the wing-tipped shoe wearing wonder from Wausau, Wisconsin, and the man who would become The Intimidator, Dale Earnhardt, were an unlikely pair but that’s also what made them so close.

In addition to coming up through their respective short track ranks in the Midwest and Southeast, the two men shared common interests that included hunting, fishing and working on both their race cars and personal cars.

Here are some of the stories Marcis told NBC Sports about his friendship with Earnhardt:

“When I first heard of Dale racing down here, he wasn’t in NASCAR yet, but he was running the short tracks and had a good reputation – but he also had a rough reputation at the same time,” Marcis said. “A lot of people would say to me ‘you ought to go run this track and race against Earnhardt.’”

They would eventually do so on several short tracks before racing against each other in several hundred NASCAR Grand National and Winston Cup races. Marcis made his NASCAR debut in the 1968 Daytona 500, while Earnhardt made his NASCAR debut in the 1975 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

In 1978, Marcis was near the end of a one-year deal driving for owner Rod Osterlund when he found out that his contract would not be renewed. His replacement for 1979 was Earnhardt, who would go on to win his first of seven Cup championships in 1980.

Marcis wasn’t upset that his friend would replace him behind the wheel. Rather, he looked forward to returning to his roots as an independent team owner/operator and wished Earnhardt the best of luck.

But there were a few instances over their quarter-century of racing against each other in NASCAR where that friendship was tested, with one time in particular, Marcis recalled.

“We were at Martinsville and Dale was hammering at me and hammering at me, and I got ticked off about it and spun him out,” Marcis said, adding with a laugh, “he wouldn’t talk to me for two months. He was mad.

“But you know what, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. I had to stand up for myself and I can’t let people run over me because if I did, then I was going to have trouble all the time.

“Finally one day, he walked up to me and grabbed me around the neck, had a big old grin on his face and said, ‘You know that deal at Martinsville?’ And I said, ‘Yes sir.’ And he said, ‘I had that coming. My daddy always told me if you have any problem with anybody, don’t carry it down the road. I guess you had a problem and you didn’t carry it down the road.’”

When Neil Bonnett was killed in a crash while practicing for the 1994 Daytona 500, Earnhardt turned to his friend Marcis to fill Bonnett’s shoes as his test driver.

“We became the biggest, greatest friends, hunted and fished together,” Marcis said. “After we lost Neil Bonnett, who had done a lot of testing for Dale, I did all of Dale’s testing. I was quite honored to have tested the car, worked with Larry McReynolds and all the guys on the team on the car Dale won the Daytona 500 with and he thanked me in victory circle for that testing.

“He was a great guy, did a lot of things for a lot of people that a lot of people didn’t know nothing about and he didn’t want publicity about.”

With others of their era like Rusty Wallace, Terry Labonte and Jeff Gordon, Marcis admits he sometimes wondered why Earnhardt chose him to be so close to over the years.

“I think he had respect for me, and exactly why, I don’t know,” Marcis told NBC Sports. “But a lot of people told me, and I don’t know if there was any truth in it, but they said he kind of looked at me kind of like his father because I worked all the time on the car, drove it and hauled it like his father had to do.

“He was a great person. There are some people who would disagree with you, but you have to remember, he had a lot of respect for everybody but he made things happen on the race track. I remember when he bumped Terry Labonte at Bristol, he said he meant to tap him or bump him out of the way, he didn’t mean to wreck him.”

But that was Earnhardt, he was that competitive. And that same drive extended to things away from the race track. Marcis recalled one incident with a big laugh:

“We’d go somewhere to eat and he’d get in line and the first thing he would do, he would not want to be the last guy in that line,” Marcis chuckled. “He’d walk in front of every one of us that he knew and he’d be the guy to be first ahead of you. He wanted to be first.”

In addition to Earnhardt’s largesse off the track, he was especially benevolent to Marcis over the years, giving him parts, advice and money – but usually on Earnhardt’s terms.

“We were at Talladega one day testing and he asked what was I doing tomorrow?” Marcis recalled. “I told him I’d be home at my shop, getting (his own) car and working on it to get it ready to come back here.

“Dale wanted me to test his car for him but I told him I couldn’t, and I only had a couple of guys at that time. He didn’t say no more about it.

“Then that evening, when the track closed, he came up to me, pulled three $100 bills out of his pocket, stuffed it in my shirt pocket and said ‘Here, take your guys out to eat tonight and this will help pay for your motel room. I already called the people at the motel you’re staying at and told them you were staying another night,’ and then just walked away. So what are you going to do? The next day, where was I? I was at Talladega, testing for Dale.”

Being one of the last independent full-time team owner/operators in NASCAR, Marcis was perhaps more in constant search for sponsorship than better- and more fully-funded teams like Earnhardt’s GM Goodwrench Chevrolet.

One day, Marcis asked his buddy if he would be willing to sponsor his race car.

“We were at Darlington one time and I wanted to ask him to sponsor my car at North Wilkesboro,” Marcis said. “I finally got the nerve to go up to him and told him, ‘Dale, you need to sponsor my car at Wilkesboro with Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet.’

“He asked how much did I want. I told him $2,500. He said that wasn’t enough. He never said another word the rest of the weekend to me about it. Monday I’m at the shop working and the phone rang and it was Dale. He asked where did I want him to send the decals to, my address. I ended up outqualifying him. About two weeks later, the mail came and he sent me $5,000. You just never knew what to expect from him.”

Earnhardt also had a special bond with Marcis’ wife, Helen.

“Whenever my wife Helen would be in the garage, Dale never walked by her without giving her a hug. How many drivers would do that? That’s just the kind of guy he was.”

Helen also figured in a practical joke Earnhardt played on Marcis.

“One time, he called my wife at the house and told her, ‘Tell Dave to be ready at the Asheville airport tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. I’ll pick him up and we’re going to go hunting,’ Dave Marcis said. “When I came home for supper, she told me about the call and I said to her, ‘What are we hunting for?’ She said he didn’t say, where we were going or anything, just told her to tell me to be there.

“So I get out there the next morning, was there at 6 a.m. It was a little after 7 a.m. and he still hadn’t shown up. I kept asking (tower officials) if they had a clearance for his plane to land, that it would only take them about 20 minutes to fly from Statesville.

“By then it was about 7:30 a.m., they landed and Dale comes walking in, looks at me smiling and says, ‘I bet you were here at 6 o’clock, weren’t you?’ You know what I told him. We then went to Texas on a deer hunt.”

Earnhardt was proud to call Marcis a friend, to the point where unbeknownst to his buddy, agreed to put both of them on a set of racing trading cards in 1995, the only time The Intimidator did so with another driver.

“Earnhardt had some trading cards made with his picture on one side and my picture on the other,” Marcis said. “I don’t know why he ever did make them. It says on the cards, ‘Dual Jewels.’ He never told me about why he did it.”

When Marcis, then 60 years old, failed to qualify for the 2001 Daytona 500, he hung out with Earnhardt for the rest of the week leading up to the day of the fateful race that would claim Earnhardt’s life.

Earnhardt worried about his good buddy, who was 11 years his senior, and proposed Marcis hang up his fire suit for good and come to work for him.

“Dale was telling me that week that I need to retire,” Marcis said. “He was going to buy some hunting land around the country in different places and we talked about putting together a race team for Kerry (Earnhardt, Dale’s oldest son).

“Dale wanted me to look at hunting land, maybe even hunt it, and decide if it’s worth buying it because he said, ‘I’m going to start spending my souvenir money on hunting land. You’ve accomplished so much, there’ll never be anybody that’s ever going to accomplish what you’ve done with what you’ve done it with. You need to think about retiring and then I’m going to put you to work.’”

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FS1 to show iRacing Pro Invitational Series race with NASCAR drivers

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Fox Sports will broadcast Sunday’s iRacing Pro Invitational Series, an exhibition event featuring many current and former NASCAR drivers.

The multi-week series begins at 1:30 p.m. ET Sunday on FS1 with a 100-lap race on a virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway.

NASCAR has postponed all races through the May 3 Cup race at Dover International Speedway because of the COVID-19 pandemic. NASCAR would have visited the real Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend.

The exhibition series will feature: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson, Hall of Famer Bobby Labonte, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer and Christopher Bell.

Other drivers will include Bubba Wallace, Chris Buescher, William Byron, Matt DiBenedetto, Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Timmy Hill, Michael McDowell, John Hunter Nemechek, Ryan Preece, Garrett Smithley, Erik Jones, Ross Chastain, Parker Kligerman, Landon Cassill and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The full field with Xfinity and Truck Series drivers will be announced on Sunday.

FOX NASCAR broadcasters Jeff Gordon, Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds will call the action in the 90-minute broadcast.

Bowyer will serve as an in-race analyst.

“This is a unique opportunity to offer competitive and entertaining racing to our viewers as we all work through these challenging times together,” Brad Zager, FOX Sports Executive Producer, EVP/Head of Production & Operations said in a press release. “We are following CDC guidelines to maintain a safe work environment, as the well-being of all those involved is paramount. We value our relationships across the NASCAR community and appreciate all of the effort that it took in bringing this project to life.”

 

 

Corey LaJoie texts with Ryan Newman, thanks fans for support

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Corey LaJoie told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that he texted with Ryan Newman on Wednesday night after Newman was released from a Florida hospital and they were able to share a laugh.

Newman’s car crashed in front of LaJoie’s on the last lap of Monday’s Daytona 500. LaJoie had no chance to avoid hitting Newman’s upside down car on the driver side. The contact catapulted Newman’s car before it landed on its roof and slid down the frontstretch, coming to rest beyond the exit of pit road. Newman was extricated after the roof was cut off his No. 6 Ford. He was immediately taken to Halifax Health Medical Center and was in serious condition that evening with injuries that were not life threatening.

LaJoie spoke Thursday with Danielle Trotta and Larry McReynolds on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “On Track’ show.

“It truly is a miracle the condition that Ryan Newman is in today vs. what we all assumed on Monday night,” said LaJoie, who finished eighth in the Daytona 500 for his career-best result in that race. “It goes to show how nasty of a wreck and how good of a job that NASCAR has done to make these cars safer and just the power of prayer, really.

“It’s been a very emotional week for everybody. I wanted to thank everybody for reaching out and supporting all three of us (Ryan) Blaney, myself and (Newman). It seems like all three of us are doing well for the circumstances.”

Bubba Wallace stated on social media Wednesday that he had been supporting Blaney, who was “devastated” by Newman’s accident. The incident was triggered by a bump from Blaney’s car as he sought to push Newman to the victory.

LaJoie noted that two extra bars, referred to as a Newman bar, to reinforce the window could have been pivotal in this crash.

“I kind of thanked him for flipping at Talladega over (in 2009) because if it wasn’t for that visor bar, that second roof bar that they put in after that crash that Ryan had, I told him, I said, we would have been able to split the ambulance fare because I would have been right there next to him … there was no telling how bad it could have been,” LaJoie said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio of what he told Newman.

“I think the previous crashes and the advancements that the R&D Center and the guys at NASCAR have made to make the car safer through that wreck is what really kept him and I both safe.”

LaJoie said the crash happened so fast, he had no chance to avoid Newman’s car.

“It was crazy how fast it happened,” LaJoie said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “People don’t realize how much it hurts when you hit something that hard that fast.”

LaJoie also said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that he doesn’t think changes need to be made to the type of racing seen at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.

“I’m comfortable,” he said. “It’s what you sign up for. There’s an element of danger. Like I was explaining to someone the other day, you’re trying to make a 3,600-pound piece of metal go 200 miles an hour, sometimes you’re going to have bad crashes.

“I think it’s a testament to what NASCAR is learning and trying to keep these cars safe because that was the worst, the worst, angle of a crash, the worst area of a car to get hit on Monday night the way Ryan was and for him to be literally to be walking out 36 hours later, why would we change what many would consider the best form of racing that we have in the superspeedways?

“My opinion, we don’t change a thing. We just keep learning from these wild crashes, especially with this new Next Gen car coming in, the cars are even 30-40% safer than this. I’m excited to get into that car and continue to put on a great show for the fans.”

 

Kelley Earnhardt Miller, Danielle Trotta to host weekly show on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

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SiriusXM announced Thursday a new weekly show on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio hosted by JR Motorsports co-owner Kelley Earnhardt Miller and veteran NASCAR reporter Danielle Trotta.

The show, “Beyond Racing,” will air on Thursdays from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. ET and will debut on Feb. 7.

Trotta, who works for NBC Boston, will also be the regular host of the 11 a.m.- 1 p.m. ET block starting Feb. 4. She will be joined by co-host Larry McReynolds for “On-Track” on Monday – Wednesday and Friday.

“I couldn’t be more excited to work with Kelley,” said Trotta.  “She is someone I admire both as a person and an executive and it is an honor to call her a friend.  Her pedigree, experience and success in the sport make her an authoritative voice that NASCAR fans will enjoy hearing from, and will certainly learn from.”

Earnhardt Miller will offer her perspective as a front office executive.

“I have always enjoyed being on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio as a guest, and I’m very excited to now join the SiriusXM team as a host,” Earnhardt Miller said in a press release.  “I look forward to sharing my perspective on life as a team owner, talk about the Earnhardt family and legacy, and much more.  It’ll be a thrill to be able to talk with NASCAR fans across the country each week, and to work alongside a respected NASCAR reporter and friend like Danielle.”