this day in nascar history

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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March 20 in NASCAR History: Carl Edwards’ dramatic first Cup Series win

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The NASCAR world got introduced to Carl Edwards in a big way in March 2005.

In the span of 24 hours, March 19-20, Edwards claimed his first career wins in both the Cup and Xfinity Series.

The wins came in his 17th and and seventh career starts in each series during a race weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The finish in the Cup race was true to form for Atlanta, which was a regular host of dramatic photo finishes in the early 2000s, long before its track surface was worn down into a driver favorite.

The final 44 laps saw Edwards, driving Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 99 Ford, dueling with future seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson.

(Photo by Bill Gutweiler/Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images)

Johnson controlled the lead for 39 laps in that stretch while Edwards led the remaining five, including the final one.

Using the high line, Edwards chased down Johnson before pouncing in Turn 4 as they came to the checkered flag.

Edwards and Johnson slammed doors as they came through the tri-oval, and Edwards pulled ahead at the final moment to win by .028 seconds.

With the crowd in a frenzy, Edwards capped it off by performing his trademark celebratory backflip from the top of his car.

It was an image fans would get to see 27 more times from Edwards in the Cup Series, including the following October as he completed a sweep of the Atlanta races. Edwards was the first driver to sweep the Cup and Xfinity races at Atlanta in one weekend.

“Let me tell you Jimmie Johnson is an amazing competitor,” Edwards told Fox in victory lane. “I’m telling you I’ve never driven that hard in my life.”

 

March 19 in NASCAR history: Austin Dillon steals Xfinity win at Auto Club in 2016

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On March 19, 2016, Kyle Busch looked well on his way to winning his fourth consecutive Xfinity Series race to begin the season.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver had led 133 of 200 laps in a race at Auto Club Speedway.

Then on Lap 200, moments after taking the white flag, Busch’s left-front tire gave out. That allowed teammate Daniel Suarez to speed by in Turn 2.

But Suarez’ time in the lead was short lived. His No. 19 Toyota had barely exited the turn when it ran out of gas.

With Suarez falling off the pace on the apron, Busch was able to drive his wounded car back to the point position entering Turn 3.

With Busch limping along, Austin Dillon‘s No. 3 Chevrolet pounced in Turn 4. Dillon darted to the outside of Busch and scrapped the wall as he navigated a small hole left by Busch.

Dillon drove away to lead his only lap of the race and to claim his seventh career Xfinity win.

“I was worried about our fuel, stayed focus on that the whole time,” Dillon told Fox Sports. “(Busch) tried to screw me there at the end, but didn’t work out for him, did it?”

Busch would bounce back to win the following week at Texas. He would go on to win 10 times in 17 Xfinity starts that year.

Also on this date:

1995: After a five-year break from the track, David Green wins in the Xfinity Series’ return to Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.

2000: Ward Burton ended a five-year winless streak in the Cup Series with a victory at Darlington Raceway. It was his second of five career wins, all with Bill Davis Racing.

March 18 in NASCAR History: David Pearson begins epic 1973 run at Rockingham

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David Pearson never competed in a full NASCAR Cup Series season. The closest he came was making 48 of 49 starts in 1968.

Despite this, he ended his career with three titles and 105 wins.

Even in a regular part-time role, he still beat up on the competition.

And in 1973 when Pearson made only 18 of 28 Cup events, he really beat up on them. He won 11 times, including a stretch of nine wins in 10 races.

It started on March 18 at North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham.

For Pearson, it was his third start of the year after missing the Feb. 25 race at Richmond. Driving the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 Mercury, Pearson started on the pole alongside eventual season champion Benny Parsons.

David Pearson drives into victory lane after winning the Carolina 500 (YouTube).

For 492 laps, the competition chased the “Silver Fox” as Pearson led every lap but the 73rd while he pitted under caution (the Wood Brothers’ crew could get Pearson out of the pits in 20 seconds!).

Oh, and he lapped the field.

In the closing laps, Cale Yarborough ran in second one lap down. He did this after his seat broke away from the roll cage, forcing him to hold on with one hand and drive with the other.

Then misfortune struck Pearson with five laps to go when he ran over an exhaust pipe and cut his right-front tire.

With the caution out for debris, Pearson pitted for fresh tires as Yarborough made up his lap.

But Yarborough didn’t have enough for Pearson, who dashed out to win by 3.8 seconds in a three-lap shootout.

“I just knew I was a goner when I hit the metal,” Pearson said after the race according to the book “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era: 1972-1989.” “I didn’t see it in time to dodge it. It would have been a shame to have led all those laps then lose. I sure was glad to see that caution flag come out.”

Fifth place in the race, Dick Brooks, finished six laps down. 10th place, Bill Dennis, was 19 laps down.

The only time Pearson wouldn’t win in his next nine starts would be the World 600, when he placed second to Buddy Baker. They were the only cars on the lead lap.

Pearson would finish third or better in his next 12 starts. He’d cap off the year by completing a sweep of the Rockingham races, winning the season finale over Baker as the only driver on the lead lap.