It seemed like a good idea at the time

Saturday, May 10, 1952 – There was Strictly Stock, the forerunner of today’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and later the Convertible division, but in 1952 and ’53, NASCAR gave open-wheel entries a whirl. And on this date, the sanctioning body held its first race for Indy-style entries, known as the Speedway Division, at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

Buck Baker won the inaugural race in an entry powered by a Cadillac engine. He led the final 46 laps of the 160-lap event and according to reports sported a four-lap lead on runner-up Bill Miller at the finish.

Twenty-three entries were in the race and lined up three-abreast for the start; Speedy Thompson was the pole winner.

The Speedway Division was short-lived, lasting only from 1952-53. Baker won the series championship in ’52 while Pete Allen took the honor in ’53.

Rain and the threat of a lawsuit

Monday, May 9, 1960 – Two days after the Rebel 300 NASCAR convertible race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway was halted due to rain, one of the race’s chief contenders threatened to file a lawsuit against the sanctioning body and its founder, William H.G. France. Joe Weatherly said he would seek legal action if the race, scheduled to be completed on May 14, was resumed under the caution flag as proposed by France. Darlington Raceway president Bob Colvin sided with Weatherly and said according to NASCAR’s own rulebook, a race could only be restarted in one of two ways – under the green flag at the point it was halted or reverting to the start and beginning under green at lap 1.

Weatherly’s concern was that he and at least two other drivers had pitted for fuel during the 16 laps run under yellow for rain after lap 58. Resuming the race under five laps of yellow, he said, provided those who had not pitted with an unfair advantage – they would be able to pit and not lose a lap as he had done before the race was halted. Fireball Roberts was the race leader at the time the race was halted but was low on fuel.

France told the Florence Morning News that the situation was “an unprecedented event” and that “we have no rule to coverage. I simply had to let my conscious be my guide.”

So what happened? The race, held the following Saturday, was resumed under the yellow flag and Weatherly wound up in victory lane. And no lawsuit was filed. “I don’t think we even ought to talk about that,” he said after his first Darlington victory.

Waltrip not perfect, but close

Saturday, May 8, 1982 – Darrell Waltrip led 419 of 420 laps to easily win the Cracker Barrel Country Store 420 at Nashville (Tenn.) Speedway. The NASCAR premier series victory was the fifth in the season’s first 10 races for Waltrip and the No. 11 Junior Johnson-owned organization.

Harry Gant led the only lap Waltrip didn’t, taking the point when Waltrip hit pit road on lap 117. It was the 44th career victory for Waltrip, who crossed the finish line a full lap ahead of runner-up Terry Labonte.

Waltrip won the race from the pole, taking the top spot earlier in the day after qualifying on Friday was postponed due to rain.

Among his 84 career Cup victories, the CB 420 was the closest Waltrip ever came to leading every lap. It isn’t surprising that it came at Nashville, the Franklin, Tenn., driver’s “home” track. In 1979, he led 409 of 420 laps en route to a win there. And when the series returned later that summer in ’82, Waltrip led 400 of 420 laps on his way to another victory.

Isaac finds trouble, Pearson nets win

Sunday May 7, 1972 – Davie Pearson managed to swing around trouble when it struck race leader Bobby Isaac and the result was a victory in the Winston 500 at Alabama International Motor Speedway for the Wood Brothers Racing driver. Pearson was trailing Isaac with two laps remaining when the leader hit the wall after contact with the lapped entry of Jimmy Crawford.

Isaac, who still managed to finish second in spite of his skirmish with Crawford, had ignored a black flag from NASCAR due to an unattached gas cap as the final laps wound down. He was allowed to keep his runner-up finish but fined $1,500. NASCAR president Bill France Jr. said afterward that officials had the option of penalizing, disqualifying or suspending Isaac for the infraction. “It isn’t easy inspecting a car going 190 mph,” France told reporters.

Asked how the call could have differed had Isaac won the race instead of finishing second, NASCAR Vice President Lin Kuchler said, “I guess we’d still be meeting.”

Richard Petty finished fifth and earned a $10,000 bonus for leading the points standings after the season’s 11th event. Another $10,000 was split among the drivers second through fifth in the standings after the race.

Country music star and sometimes racer Marty Robbins finished 18th in the race to earn Rookie of the Race honors. However, officials stripped Robbins of his finish for an improperly installed carburetor, leaving him last in the 50-car field.

The race saw the debut of Darrell Waltrip in NASCAR’s premier series. Waltrip qualified 25th and finished 38th in the No. 95 Terminal Transport Mercury. It was the first of 809 career starts in the series for the three-time champion and NASCAR Hall of Fame member.

Gant gets win, Mast gets assist

Sunday, May 6, 1991 – It was the 12th career win for the ageless Harry Gant. Might have been won while going slowest, too. Gant used “drafting” help from the lapped entry of fellow driver Rick Mast (and perhaps a bit of a push) to stretch his fuel and take the checkered flag in the rain-hampered Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Gant, the series’ oldest winner at 51, made the winning move with two laps remaining, then saw his fuel cell run dry on the final lap. Mast remained tucked behind the No. 33 Oldsmobile, keeping Gant ahead of a fast closing Darrell Waltrip (second) and Dale Earnhardt (third).

The start of the race was delayed two hours due to rain.

The race was delayed 33 minutes following a 20-car pileup on lap 70 involving eight of the top 15 qualifiers; among those taken out by the incident were race favorites Davey Allison, Rusty and Mark Martin.

Kyle Petty suffered a broken leg in the multi-car crash; the driver of the No. 42 Pontiac for team owner Felix Sabates missed 12 races because of the injury but returned before season’s end.

Stewart wins on record-setting night/day

Sunday, May 5, 2002 – It was a race that featured several notable items so perhaps it makes sense that it took two days to complete the Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway. Rain, which delayed the previous day’s scheduled start of the race by two hours, eventually returned after less than 70 laps had been completed and forced officials to postpone the completion of the event until the following day.

Tony Stewart won the race, for the second consecutive year, but had to come from the rear of the field to score the victory after a pre-race engine change negated his third-place qualifying run. Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Bobby Labonte, eighth in qualifying, also went to the back for a similar issue. And when Johnny Benson suffered a broken rib in Friday night’s Hardee’s 250 Busch race, Joe Nemechek took over the ride, and a third Pontiac was sent to the rear before the Cup race ever got under way.

It was Stewart’s third win at Richmond, site of his first career victory in the series in 1999.

By starting the event, Ricky Rudd tied Terry Labonte for most consecutive starts in the Cup series at 655.

A new sealer put down on the track led to less than ideal racing conditions and as a result, there were a track record 103 laps run under caution and the 14 caution flags tied the track record.

The race was the final Cup start for local favorite Rick Mast in the Junie Donlavey-owned No. 90 Ford. Mast, diagnosed with chronic and acute carbon monoxide poisoning, announced his retirement from competition in January, 2003.

Tragedy strikes at Talladega

Sunday, May 4, 1975 – Tragedy struck at Talladega when a pressurized water tank explosion claimed the life of Randy G. Owens, a crewman on the No. 43 team of Richard Petty, during the running of the Winston 500 at Alabama International Speedway.

Petty had pitted with a fire in his left-front wheel on lap 141 of the 188-lap race; Owen, 21, turned on the pressure on the tank to put out the fire when the explosion occurred, throwing him into the air.

The brother of Petty’s wife Lynda, Randy Owens worked with the Petty team for approximately four years. He left a wife, Jan, and two sons – Travis, 2, and Trent, 1. Trent Owens is currently crew chief for the No. 37 JTG-Daugherty Chevrolet of driver Chris Buescher in NASCAR’s premier series.

Also injured in the explosion was Gary Rogers, a crewman for driver Benny Parsons. He was treated for minor injuries after being struck by debris from the tank.

Buddy Baker won the race, holding off David Pearson to score the victory.

Davey wins, Bobby flips, NASCAR reacts

Sunday, May 3, 1987 – Second-generation racer Davey Allison charged to his first career victory in NASCAR’s premier series when he captured the Winston 500 at Alabama International Motor Speedway (now Talladega Superspeedway). Allison led 101 of 178 laps in a race that was shortened 10 laps due to a 2 hr., 38 min. delay caused by a crash involving his father, 1983 premier series champion Bobby Allison.

The win came in the younger Allison’s 14th start in the series and was the first of 19 he would earn before his death six years later. His No. 28 Ford, fielded by owner Harry Ranier, crossed the finish line 0.65 second ahead of runner-up Terry Labonte.

Bobby Allison’s car became airborne on lap 22 while running through the tri-oval at the 2.66-mile track and tore down approximately 150 feet of fencing along the frontstretch. Debris thrown into the grandstands injured several spectators – three were transported to areas hospitals with non-life- threatening injuries. Others were seen and released by safety personnel at the track. Bobby Allison was not injured nor were any of the nine other drivers involved in the incident.

Bill Elliott had established a series qualifying record only days earlier at the Talladega track with his lap of 212.809 mph. Lap speeds were consistently in the 208-210 mph range throughout the race.

Because of the Allison incident, NASCAR required the use of smaller carburetors at remaining Talladega and Daytona races that season, a move to slow the cars down. At that time, those were the only two tracks where cars exceeded 200 mph.

When teams returned to Daytona the following February, NASCAR had mandated the use of carburetor restrictor plates to slow the cars. That process remained in place until the completion of this year’s Daytona 500. Engines are now equipped with tapered spacers, which also restrict horsepower, instead of the plates.

Nadeau critically injured in Richmond crash

Friday, May 2, 2003 – NASCAR premier series driver Jerry Nadeau, a one-time race winner, was critically injured in a crash during practice for the Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway. The 32-year-old had to be cut from his Pontiac race car after it slammed into the outside wall in Turn 2. He was airlifted to the Medical College of Virginia.

Nadeau, who had qualified 12th for the upcoming race prior to the crash, spun his No. 01 MBV Motorsports entry and the car struck the outside wall on the driver’s side.

The Danbury, Conn., native sustained head, lung and rib injuries as a result of the crash, injuries that ended his driving career. He was wearing a head and neck restraining device, made mandatory following the 2001 death of seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt.

Nadeau made 177 starts from 1997-03. His lone career win came in the season-ending 2000 NAPA 500 while driving for Hendrick Motorsports. He also earned nine top-five and 19 top-10 finishes.

In addition to his Cup effort, Nadeau also made eight starts in the Xfinity Series and one in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

Parsons breaks through, Foyt suspended

Sunday, May 1, 1988 – Phil Parsons, younger brother of 1973 NASCAR premier series champion Benny Parsons, scored his first career victory in the series with a win in the Winston 500 at Alabama International Motor Speedway (now Talladega Superspeedway). It was the 111th career start for Parsons, 30. Third-fastest in qualifying, Parsons led 52 laps in the 188-lap race in his No. 55 Oldsmobile, including the final 15. Bobby Allison, Geoff Bodine, Terry Labonte and Ken Schrader completed the top five.

A.J. Foyt, an infrequent NASCAR competitor through the years, was suspended for six months by the sanctioning body and fined $5,000 for “conduct detrimental to the sport.” Foyt was involved in an on-track incident with fellow driver Alan Kulwicki under caution, ignored NASCAR directives, was black flagged and allegedly swerved at officials when coming to pit road and the garage.

NASCAR officials eventually lifted the Foyt suspension, however his fine was increased from $5,000 to $7,500. In addition, he was placed on probation for two races.

Parson’s Talladega victory, which came with car owners Richard and Leo Jackson, was his only win in the premier series although he made 92 more starts through 1997.