Pre-double Donnie scores at ‘Dega

Sunday, May 16, 1971 – Donnie Allison won what amounted to a one-lap drag race with brother Bobby Allison and Buddy Baker to capture the Winston 500 at Alabama International Motor Speedway for his sixth career victory in NASCAR’s premier series. The one-lap shootout was set up when Dave Marcis blew an engine while leading with less than 10 laps remaining.

Donnie Allison won in his first start at the massive 2.66-mile speedway in a race that featured 42 lead changes and a 50-car starting field.

It was the fourth 1-2 finish for Donnie and Bobby Allison; Donnie had won all four. Bobby would beat his brother for the win for the first time later that same month in the World 600.

A day before the Winston 500, Donnie Allison had been in Indianapolis where he qualified 20th for the Indianapolis 500 as a teammate to A.J. Foyt.

Foyt was handling most of the driving duties for the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing winning team that season, having won at Ontario and Atlanta. However, Allison was filling in while Foyt focused on the Indy 500.

Marcis gave up his own ride to drive the No. 71 K&K Insurance Dodge. That team’s regular driver, Bobby Isaac, was hospitalized just days earlier with kidney stones. Isaac was released in time to watch much of the race from the press box.

The race was the first for the series with Winston naming rights.

Cornelia Wallace, wife of Alabama Gov. George Wallace, was the honorary pace car driver for the race.

Johnson: Midseason move key to season

Jimmie Johnson’s 2019 paint scheme for the May 26th running of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

CONCORD, N.C. – Jimmie Johnson says he’s a patient person, but he admits it’s getting tougher as the weeks roll on and the months begin to stack up and when you stop to catch your breath you suddenly realize an entire third of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season has come and gone.

“Over my career I’ve been able to … just let things work themselves out,” Johnson, 43, said Tuesday during a paint scheme unveil of his No. 48 Chevrolet for the May 26th Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“There are two factors leading to my impatience now. One is I haven’t won in a couple of years and two is, I don’t know what I’m going to be doing in a couple of years. My contract’s up in 2020 and I’ll have to evaluate what I want to do after that.”

It’s an honest conversation but an unusual one just the same.

The backdrop behind Johnson is impressive and when you look over his shoulder you see his name again and again and again.

Listed on the wall inside the Hendrick Motorsports team center are the races and winner’s names of every HMS points victory in NASCAR’s Cup Series. All 253 of them.

Legendary races at legendary tracks are separated from the others. The Daytona 500, Darlington’s Southern 500, Charlotte’s Coca-Cola 600 and The Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis.

Eighty-three of the victories belong to the El Cajon, Calif., native, including a dozen of those “crown jewel” races.

But we’re not taking about NASCAR’s grand slam at the moment. We’re talking about last Saturday night’s race at Kansas. And not winning. And why Johnson isn’t and what he and his team are doing about it.

The season is hustling by and the sport’s only active seven-time champion finished sixth at Kanas just days ago. It’s been 71 races since his last victory.

For much of his career, a sixth-place finish would hardly seem noteworthy for Johnson. But the fact that it’s his second-best result of the 12 races run thus far says much.

“It’s flying by quick and we haven’t been in contention to win a race yet this year,” he said. “We’ve got to fix that.

“If I’m not in contention to win a race, there’s no chance of winning a championship. For me, right now this middle portion of the season is the key for me to get things where they need to be so we can win races and ultimately win a championship.”

His Hendrick teammates are making headway and garnering attention – Chase Elliott won at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway last month to secure a spot in the playoffs and Alex Bowman is riding a career-best string of three consecutive runner-up finishes.

Meanwhile Johnson and William Byron have shown some improvement but less speed and consistency.

As for Kansas, Johnson said his team knew as soon as the No. 48 was unloaded “that we were down on speed to our teammates.”

“We made some (decisions) to race better and try not to pay attention about single-car speed a lot like you would see at a restrictor-plate track,” he said.

“So Friday we’re trying not to overreact, we’re just hoping that it would race better. Then when I got in the race, the first half of the race was so bad for us, I was like ‘Well, that didn’t work.’ We didn’t have the raw speed and didn’t have the better car in traffic.

“I have to give Kevin (Meendering, crew chief) a ton of credit. Once (I voiced) my displeasure in the car, he made some killer decisions. Our pit stops were awesome on pit road, those guys rallied around, we had a great second half of the race and finished sixth.

“We know what’s making speed within our company. We just need to figure out how to put those pieces into our car … with our philosophy.”

Johnson will be going after a fifth win in the Cup series all-star race, slated for Saturday night at CMS, as well as fifth win in the 600.

“Winning on either weekend would be really special and significant for us on the 48 car,” he said. “My All-Star wins mean a ton to me and obviously that big cash prize that’s out there (the winner’s purse is $1 million) is very tempting.

“The 600 is such a test of driver and machine, strategy … the challenge we have to face I guess ultimately in the 600 is just insane. Those victories mean a ton to me. It’s hard to believe I’ve won as many as I have.”

As part of the NASCAR Salutes initiative held in conjunction with the race, Johnson will carry the name of Army Sgt. Richard Donlan on his during the Coca-Cola 600.

The announcement was part of Tuesday’s paint scheme reveal for the All-sponsored Chevrolet.

“It’s just such an honor,” Johnson said. “Times like this put it all in perspective. … Our sport just does an amazing job of being active and involved. I’m one of 40 lucky drivers that get to carry a name on the car and to honor that fallen soldier.”

A spin, a win and a push

Sunday, May 15, 1955 – Downey, Calif., native Danny Letner rallied from a late-race spin to capture the NASCAR premier series event at the Tucson (Ariz.) Rodeo Grounds. Letner had spun after reeling in race leader Allen Adkins with 30 laps remaining in the 200-lap, 100-mile event. The mishap left him trailing the race leader by 10 seconds. But with barely two laps remaining, Adkins’ 1954 Dodge ran out of fuel – allowing Letner to take the lead and pick up the victory.

The win was the final victory in the series for Letner, who made 27 starts. He earned his first victory the previous year at Oakland (Calif.) Stadium.

Letner was also a winner in the NASCAR Convertible series, winning at Langhorne (Pa.) Speedway in 1956. He was an eight-time winner in what is now the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and claimed that series’ title in ’55.

Adkins’ pit crew pushed his car across the finish line, allowing their driver to finish second.

Adkins was winless in 14 career starts in the premier series. He did, however, win twice in the NASCAR Convertible series and three times the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.

The race, No. 14 of 45 for the season, was the only time NASCAR’s top series competed at the half-mile Tucson dirt track.

Kahne joins the club, wins at Richmond

Saturday, May 14, 2005 – A runner-up six times in his NASCAR premier series career, Kasey Kahne finally broke through to score his first victory, capturing the Chevy American Revolution 400 at Richmond International Raceway. For Kahne, who was driving the No. 9 Dodge for team owner Ray Evernham, career win No. 1 came in his 47th start in the series.

Kahne led a race high 242 of the 400-lap race, including the final 106.

To secure the win, Kahne had to hold off a hard-charging Tony Stewart; Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick completed the top five.

Kahne became the 167th driver to win at NASCAR’s top level.

The victory was the first for the Dodge Charger, which replaced the Dodge Intrepid (2001-04).

Track officials announced a 27th consecutive sellout, continuing a streak that began in 1992.

Petty sets win mark with Darlington victory

Saturday, May 13, 1967 – Richard Petty becomes the winningest driver in NASCAR’s premier series with career win No. 55 when he captures the Rebel 400 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. Prior to the victory, the 29-year-old Petty was tied with his father, three-time series champ Lee Petty, with a series-leading 54 victories.

• Petty dominated the race although an early scrape with the wall sent him to the pits for repairs. He led 266 of the race’s 291 laps. David Pearson, the runner-up, finished one lap down.

• Lee Petty, the series champion in 1954, ’58-59, had earned his final victory in 1961, winning at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Fla.

• Richard Petty began the ’67 season with 48 wins and was tied with Herb Thomas for fourth in all-time wins in the series. In addition to Lee Petty’s 54 victories, Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson were tied for second with 50 career victories. By the end of the season, Richard had scored a single-season record 27 victories, giving him 75 overall.

Sunday race leaves track president ‘blue’

Sunday, May 12, 1957 – Darlington (S.C.) Raceway track president Bob Colvin drove the pace car prior to the start of the Rebel 300 NASCAR convertible race. As soon as he exited the track he was arrested by the Darlington County Sheriff. Colvin’s crime? Violating the state’s Blue Law, which forbid “paid amusement” on Sundays. According to reports, Colvin posted a $50 bond immediately.

The race was originally scheduled for Saturday, May 11 but was postponed due to rain.

The so-called “Blue Law,” which also prohibited the sale of alcohol on Sundays, has been repealed in various municipalities across the state of South Carolina through the years.

A Place of Honor for NASCAR’s Legends

Tuesday, May 11, 2010 – The NASCAR Hall of Fame, located in Charlotte, N.C., officially opens to the public. The $195 million project took four years to complete. Kicking off the official opening were NASCAR officials, the governor of North Carolina and legends of NASCAR, including Richard Petty and Junior Johnson, two of the Hall’s inaugural inductees.

A mix of memorabilia and interactive displays are located inside the 150,000 square foot building. The Hall’s centerpiece, however, is Glory Road, a sweeping display of 18 famous vehicles stationed on a “road” that gradually increases in banking to simulate the banking found on various race tracks hosting NASCAR events.

The Hall of Fame inducted its first class in 2010, a class that consisted of NASCAR founder William H.G. France, longtime chairman William Clifton France, known as Bill Jr., Petty, Johnson and Dale Earnhardt.

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.