today in nascar history

May 9 in NASCAR: Richard Petty survives violent 1970 Darlington wreck

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David Pearson won the spring 1970 Cup Series at Darlington Raceway.

But that’s just interesting trivia compared to the lasting memory of the May 9, 1970 race at the “Track Too Tough to Tame.”

It occurred on Lap 176 when Richard Petty, after his steering failed, brushed the outside railing in Turn 4. That caused his No. 43 Plymouth to shoot to the inside of the track and slam into the frontstretch wall nose-first.

Petty’s car then went into a violent tumble, as it flipped roughly five times before coming to a rest on its roof.

Petty, who had been knocked out, could be seen hanging out of the driver-side window.

Red could be seen near Petty, and it was feared to be blood.

“At the time I used to run with a rag in my mouth,” Petty said years later. “Well, them rags got to coming out the windows and stuff. It looked terrible.”

Petty was rushed to the infield medical center before being taken to a hospital in Florence, South Carolina.

But even the drive out of the track in the ambulance was eventful.

”The cat driving didn’t know how to get out of the infield,” Petty said in 1992. ”He would have driven on the track if I hadn’t stopped him. He didn’t know about the tunnel under Turn 3 and didn’t know how to get to the hospital in Florence. Start to finish, it was quite a deal.”

Miraculously, Petty escaped with only a broken left shoulder. He would miss the next five Grand National races and returned on June 7 at Michigan International Speedway before winning the next two races, at Riverside and Kingsport (Tenn.) Speedway. Petty would go on to win 18 of the 40 races he entered that season.

The incident led to NASCAR implementing the use of the window net in the driver’s side door.

Also on this date:

1964: Fred Lorenzen beat Fireball Roberts to win at Darlington Raceway, securing his fifth straight Grand National win. According to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Superspeedway Boom,” Bobby Allison was slated to start the race in a car owned by Ray Fox. But Allison, who hadn’t made a Grand National start since 1961, opted out of the race after just one practice session, citing his own inexperience. He’d make his return in the 1965 season opener at Riverside.

1981: Benny Parsons held off Darrell Waltrip in a two-lap shootout to win a Cup race at Nashville.

2009: Three days after Hendrick Motorsports announced he would return to the team full-time in 2010, Mark Martin earned his second win of the year, beating Jimmie Johnson in the Southern 500. Martin led only the final 46 laps and secured his second Cup win at Darlington, 16 years after he won the 1993 Southern 500.

2015: In a six-lap shootout and on old tires, Jimmie Johnson held off Kevin Harvick, who had put on two fresh tires under caution, to win at Kansas Speedway. The race saw Erik Jones make his official Cup Series debut as he substituted for an injured Kyle Busch.

May 8 in NASCAR: Matt Kenseth gets Darlington Xfinity win after Kyle Busch cuts tire

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It was Kyle Busch‘s race to lose and he lost it under caution.

On May 8, 2009, Busch dominated the Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway, starting from the pole and leading 143 laps.

But Busch’s chances at a victory ended in a whimper.

Busch led when the caution came out on Lap 147 of 153 for a wreck between Joe Nemechek and Scott Lagasse, Jr.

As the field slowly made its way around the 1.366-mile track, Busch’s No. 18 car drove through debris from the wreck on the backstretch.

The team soon realized Busch’s right-rear tire was going down.

After a few more circuits of the track, Busch was forced to bring his car to pit road. That gave Matt Kenseth the lead as Busch returned to the track in 18th.

Kenseth wouldn’t have to worry about keeping the lead very long. Moments after the field took the green flag as part of a green-white-checkered finish, Morgan Shepherd crashed into the inside wall on the frontstretch, bringing out the caution and effectively ending the race.

It gave Kenseth the win, his only Xfinity victory in 15 starts in 2009.

Also on this date:

1955: Tim Flock completed a marathon of running in two races in two states on back-to-back days. After finishing second in a 100-mile race at Hickory (N.C.) Speedway, Flock took the private plane of team owner Carl Kiekhaefer and flew to Arizona. At Fairgrounds Raceway in Phoenix, Flock started second and led all 100 laps on the 1-mile dirt track to claim the win over Marvin Panch. According to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Beginning,” Panch was able to compete in the race due to receiving a weekend pass from the U.S. Army. After competing in the following weekend’s race in Tucson, he wouldn’t race again until July.

1976: Cale Yarborough led all but 22 laps to win the Music City 420 at Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville. An 18-year-old Sterling Marlin made his first of 748 Cup Series starts. He started last and fell out after 55 laps due to an oil pump failure.

1982: Darrell Waltrip led all but one of 420 laps to win at Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville. It was his fifth win in the first 10 races.

1993: Ward Burton led 227 of 300 laps to beat Bobby Labonte in a Xfinity Series race at Martinsville. It was his only national NASCAR victory in his home state of Virginia.

2004: Martin Truex Jr. led 123 laps and won the Xfinity Series race at Gateway International Raceway. He was joined by two other “Juniors” in the top five. Ron Hornaday Jr. placed second and Bobby Hamilton Jr. finished fourth.

 

May 7 in NASCAR: Dale Earnhardt earns lone road course win

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Last week we documented Mark Martin’s first of two restrictor-plate wins, which came in 1995 at Talladega after he passed Dale Earnhardt coming to the white flag.

Only a week later, on May 7, The Intimidator returned the favor. But his revenge didn’t come on a superspeedway. It occurred on one of Martin’s specialities in the mid-90s — a road course.

From 1989-98, Martin was an ace on road courses. In his first 10 starts at Sonoma Raceway, he placed in the top three five times, including a win in 1997. At Watkins Glen International, he never finished outside the top five in the same time span, winning three consecutive races from 1993-95.

Earnhardt, on the other hand, only broke through for a road course win once in 47 attempts during his Cup career, which included 20 starts and 13 top fives at the defunct Riverside International Raceway.

The breakthrough happened at Sonoma and occurred in typical Intimidator fashion.

Martin led 64 of the first 70 laps in the 74-lap event. Earnhardt had led none. But on Lap 70, Earnhardt loomed in Martin’s rear-view mirror as Jeff Gordon looked on from third place in almost a mirror image of the week before.

Earnhardt didn’t let up. He almost gave Martin a shove as they entered the Carousel with two laps to go. After Martin slipped in oil, Earnhardt dove to his inside and emerged with the lead as they exited Turn 6.

Earnhardt led the rest of the way, never receiving a real challenge, aided by Martin and Gordon nearly getting together in Turn 11 coming to the white flag.

“I was as careful as I could be the last lap without giving Mark a chance to get back to me,” Earnhardt said in the next day’s Charlotte Observer. “I knew I was close to getting my first win on a road course and I didn’t want to blow it after trying for so long.”

Earnhardt was asked if would have been able to pass Martin cleanly if not for Martitn’s slip in the Carousel.

“Clean to me is not putting him out of the race track,” Earnhardt replied. “Now why did I say that?”

Also on this date:

1955: Junior Johnson overcame two spins to lead 123 of the final 136 laps and win at Hickory (N.C.) Speedway. It was the first of his 50 career Grand National victories.

1972: David Pearson passed Bobby Isaac with three laps to go to win at Talladega. A young rookie from Franklin, Tennessee, named Darrell Waltrip competed in his first Cup Series race. He started 25th but fell out on Lap 69 due to a blown engine. Also in the race was country singer Marty Robbins, who placed 18th and was voted rookie of the race. Robbins later was disqualified for an illegal carburetor.

1983: Darrell Waltrip lapped the field to win a Cup race at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway over Bobby Allison. The race was named after Marty Robbins, who died the previous December at 57 due to complications from a heart attack. Robbins made 35 Cup starts from 1966-82. His only start at the Nashville short track was his first career start.

2005: In an overtime finish, Greg Biffle overtook Ryan Newman and beat Jeff Gordon to win the first night race at Darlington.

2011: On old tires, Regan Smith held off Carl Edwards to win at Darlington to claim his first and only Cup Series win and the first NASCAR win for Furniture Row Racing, which had been competing since 2005. After being involved in a late wreck, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch got into a post-race altercation that saw Harvick reach into Busch’s car and Busch drive away, pushing Harvick’s car into the pit wall.

May 5 in NASCAR: Front Row Motorsports’ stunning Talladega win

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Over the course of his NASCAR Cup Series career, David Ragan proved to be one of the more consistent restrictor-plate racers, earning both of his Cup wins on superspeedways.

The last and most surprising of those occurred on May 5, 2013, at Talladega Superspeedway with Ragan competing for Front Row Motorsports, a team that hadn’t won a race since its founding 2005.

A rain delay caused the Aaron’s 499 to end near darkness as the race concluded with a green-white-checkered finish.

Ragan restarted five rows back on the outside as Matt Kenseth led the field.

When the field took the white flag, Carl Edwards led as Ragan raced around the fifth position. Right behind him was teammate David Gilliland.

Going down the backstretch, a shove from Gilliland helped Ragan split a gap between Kenseth on the outside and Jimmie Johnson on the inside as Edwards still led.

Kenseth was quickly moved aside as Ragan assumed his spot hugging Edwards’ rear bumper.

That lasted only a moment as Ragan darted to the inside with his momentum as they entered Turn 3. He nosed ahead of Edwards in the middle of the turn and had the lead as they entered the frontstretch.

As Ragan dodged-and-weaved his way through the tri-oval, Gilliland side-drafted Edwards. After Ragan took the checkered flag, Gilliland barely beat Edwards to the finish line, giving the aptly named Front Row Motorsports a 1-2 finish.

“I don’t know what to say, this is a true David vs Goliath moment here,” Ragan told Fox in Victory Lane. “They’re not all this easy, but man, this is special to get Front Row Motorsports their first win. Feels like I’ve never been here before.”

Also on this date:

1963: Jim Paschal led the final 69 laps to win a Grand National race at Tar Heel Speedway in Randleman, North Carolina. Paschal beat Joe Weatherly for the victory on the quarter-mile dirt track. It was the second of only three Grand National races the track hosted, all coming in the 1963-64 season.

1968: David Pearson led all but one lap to win a 300-lap event at Asheville-Weaverville (N.C.) Speedway. He beat Bobby Isaac by two laps for the victory on the half-mile paved track. It would only host three more Grand National races for a total of 34.

1974: David Pearson won his third and final race at Talladega Superspeedway, beating Benny Parsons by .17 seconds.

1985: Without the aid of a caution, Bill Elliott came from nearly two laps down to win at Talladega after a broken oil fitting sent him to pit road on Lap 48. Elliott passed Cale Yarborough with 20 laps to go and then beat Kyle Petty by 1.72 seconds. It was one of the three wins Elliott claimed in order to achieve the Winston Million that year.

May 2 in NASCAR: Junior Johnson win angers ‘Yankee’ Dick Hutcherson

Dick Hutcherson
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It had been 100 years and a couple of weeks since the American Civil War had ended, but Dick Hutcherson was made so mad by the end of the May 2, 1965 race at Bristol Motor Speedway, he felt the need to invoke it.

“I may be a damn Yankee, but I’ll always believe I won this race. No one will ever convince me I didn’t,” Hutcherson said according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: Big Bucks and Boycotts.”

“I think Robert E. Lee’s grandson was scoring the race,” he added.

They were strong remarks for Hutcherson, who was a native of Iowa.

The cause of his anger was that Junior Johnson, a native of North Carolina, had been declared the winner of the 500-lap race on the half-mile track. Hutcherson was scored as finishing second.

Johnson had gone a lap-and-a-half down when he lost a tire 265 laps into the race. Then he needed relief from Fred Lorenzen for 147 laps. After returning to the race, Johnson spent 117 laps making up time and then took the lead with 62 laps to go.

Hutcherson believed he had a one-lap lead before Johnson’s final driver change and a two-lap lead afterward.

“At the finish, Johnson was just barely back in the lead lap,” Hutcherson said.

After going over the scoring cards with NASCAR’s chief scorer, Joe Epton, Hutcherson’s co-owner, Ralph Moody, was content with the results.

Also on this date:

1954: Herb Thomas won a Grand National race at Langhorne (Pa.) Speedway by one lap for his fifth win in the first 10 races of the season. The top five was swept by drivers in Hudson Hornets.

1971: After Buddy Baker passed Donnie Allison 11 laps from the finish and Allison’s engine expired a lap later, Baker went on to claim the win at Darlington by seven laps over Dick Brooks. According to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: Big Bucks and Boycotts,” the race was the final one for the pairing of David Pearson and the Holman-Moody team. They split over a dispute about how much appearance money Pearson would receive for the May 16 race at Talladega.

1982: With drafting help from Terry Labonte, Darrell Waltrip passed Benny Parsons on the last lap to win the Winston 500 at Talladega.

1993: In a two-lap shootout following a red flag for rain at Talladega, Ernie Irvan went from fourth to first to claim the win. As the field approached the checkered flag, contact from Dale Earnhardt sent Rusty Wallace into a violent tumble that gave him a broken wrist, a concussion and a chipped tooth.