Ron Hornaday

April 3 in NASCAR: Darrell Waltrip let it ‘all hang out’ for Darlington win

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There once was a time in NASCAR when no matter how bad the crash, drivers raced back to the finish line to take the caution flag.

It was during this time, on April 3, 1977, that Darrell Waltrip won in a crazy finish at Darlington Raceway.

There were seven laps left in the Dixie 500 on this day and Waltrip was in fourth behind David Pearson, Bobby Allison and Richard Petty.

Allison was driving in relief of his brother Donnie and had managed to bring his No. 1 car back from being a lap down. And with seven laps to go, Allison passed Pearson for the lead on the backstretch.

That’s when chaos broke out exiting Turn 4 as J.D. McDuffie and Dick Brooks wrecked.

Debris from the wreck cut both ride-side tires on Allison’s car as Pearson backed off to avoid the carnage and Petty slowly navigated the mayhem.

Waltrip took the opposite approach and hammered the gas.

“I saw the wreck and knew it would take a long time to clean it up,” Waltrip said afterward according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era.” “I let it all hang out running back to the caution. I knew it was my only chance to win.”

Waltrip’s No. 88 car went from fourth to first in half a straightaway as he narrowly beat Allison to the line to take the caution flag first and assume the lead.

Waltrip’s car narrowly beat Allison’s to the start-finish line. (YouTube)

The race never resumed and Waltrip took the checkered flag.

In victory lane, Waltrip was told by ABC that NASCAR was withholding its winner declaration until it could look at pictures of the finish.

“I got one right here and I know I’m right,” Waltrip told ABC as he pointed to his head. “I beat him to the line (by) well over a car length. I know I did.”

It wound up being Waltrip’s fourth Cup win and his first on a speedway.

Also on this date:

1960: The Cup Series held its last of four races, held over nine years, at the Arizona State Fairgrounds. John Rostek won in what was his second of six career starts. The race also featured Ron Hornaday Sr. in one of his 17 Cup Series starts. NASCAR’s premier series wouldn’t return to Arizona until the inaugural event held at Phoenix Raceway in 1988.

1966: David Pearson won a Cup race at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway. It was the first of four races – including events at Columbia (S.C.) Speedway, Greenville-Pickens (S.C) Speedway and Bowman Gray (N.C) Stadium – that were held over eight days that Pearson swept.

1969: Bobby Isaac won at Columbia (S.C) Speedway, the first of three races held over six days he swept.

2011: Kevin Harvick passed Dale Earnhardt Jr. with four laps to go to win at Martinsville.

Veteran NASCAR spotters not returning to 2019 roles

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Joey Meier, veteran spotter for NASCAR Cup driver Paul Menard and others, announced Sunday night on Twitter that he will be leaving the sport after nearly a quarter-century of service.

“All good things must come to an end” Meier (pictured above) wrote. “My ‘good thing’ for the past 23 years has come to an end … my choice this time.”

Meier said he will devote all of his energies going forward to flying airplanes.

“NASCAR was in my life WAY before Aviation, but flying is my profession,” Meier wrote. “NASCAR was just a huge bonus. I’ll leave knowing I always tried my best (Thx to Big E and Pops) … being a small part of Wins and Championships, in all 3 series. … BUT it was more about being a part of a TEAM, thru thick/then, winning/defeat/flying/spotting, I cherished being part of THE TEAM. I will miss that. But that’s OK.

“I’m excited about my new team & a new cockpit. Thank you for following along. Keep it up. I’ll stay busy keeping the “BLUE SIDE UP” from here on out, I promise.”

Meier took over as spotter for Menard this season after spotting for Brad Keselowski from 2006 through the end of the 2018 season. He won NASCAR championships with Ron Hornaday, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr. and Keselowski, as well as also winning the Daytona 500 with Michael Waltrip. Among the notable team owners he worked for over the years were NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt and Roger Penske.

Also, Andy Houston, who had spotted for Austin Dillon for the last nine seasons, announced Sunday on Twitter that he also would no longer be serving in that role. Houston will be Cup rookie Cole Custer‘s spotter in 2020.

Ron Hornaday Jr., No. 30 Chevy to miss Phoenix, Fontana

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Having missed last weekend’s Sprint Cup race in Las Vegas, The Motorsports Group also will skip the remaining two races on NASCAR’s current west coast swing.

The team announced on its official Twitter account that means the No. 30 Chevrolet SS, with veteran driver Ron Hornaday Jr., will not be at Phoenix International Raceway this weekend nor Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., next weekend.

Hornaday and the No. 30 are expected to return for the STP 500 weekend March 27-29 at Martinsville Speedway.

It’s been a rough start to the 2015 season for the No. 30 team.

Hornaday was hired on Jan. 21, and veteran Pat Tryson was named crew chief on Feb. 3, a week before the start of Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway.

Hornaday failed to qualify for the season-opening Daytona 500. He qualified 34th at Atlanta Motor Speedway and finished 42nd, completing 187 laps of 325 laps before a rear gear broke.

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