Sabates’ team unloads protest car at Dover

Friday, May 31, 1996 – Kyle Petty and his SABCO Racing teammates unloaded with a new, and yet familiar, paint scheme at Dover International Speedway as the No. 42 Pontiac was painted all black instead of its usual blue and red with yellow piping. The change for the Miller 500 was ordered by team owner Felix Sabates, who was incensed over a multi-lap penalty accessed to the team during the previous week’s running of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Petty had been held in the penalty box for five laps at Charlotte following contact with Ted Musgrave during a restart that ignited a multicar crash on the frontstretch. Sabates’ argument with a NASCAR official, which took place on pit road during the caution, resulted in Petty being held two addition laps.

The black color scheme was intentionally painted to look like that used by Richard Childress Racing for its No. 3 Chevrolet with driver Dale Earnhardt.

Sabates said Earnhardt had made similar contact with another driver earlier that season only to have NASCAR officials rule the contact “a racing incident” with no penalty.

In addition to the paint scheme, the phrase “Todo es justo en amor y carreras,” was painted just behind and below the driver’s side window opening. The English translation is ‘Everything is fair in love and careers.’ The team’s pit crew also wore black uniforms at Dover.

The paint schemes might have been somewhat similar at Dover, but the finishing results were not: Earnhardt finished third while Petty placed 18th in what was officially listed as the No. 42 Coors Light Protest Pontiac.

Rexford’s lone win in championship season

May 30, 1950 – Bill Rexford won for the first and only time in a NASCAR premier series event when he captured the Poor Man’s 150 at Canfield (Ohio) Speedway. The victory came in Rexford’s eighth start in the series. He was piloting the No. 60 Oldsmobile of owner Julian Buesink.

Rexford would go on to win the championship in 1950 although he never won another NASCAR race. He was the first driver to win the title while winning only once during that season. Ned Jarrett (1961), Benny Parsons (’73) and Matt Kenseth (’03) also claimed championships during one-win seasons.

Lee Petty was stripped of 809 points earned during the first half of the season by NASCAR president William France, costing him a shot at the title. Petty had competed in non-NASCAR sanctioned events during a break in the summer schedule. NASCAR also penalized defending series champion Red Byron for a similar infraction.

The race’s name, the Poor Man’s 150, came about as it was run on the same day as the more popular, and more lucrative, Indianapolis 500.

Petty powers way to first pole

Sunday, May 29, 1960 – Richard Petty earns his first career pole in the NASCAR premier series prior to the running of a 110-lap race at Orange Speedway in Hillsborough, N.C. The future NASCAR Hall of Fame driver was joined by his father, Lee, in the all-Petty front row. Richard would go on to finish sixth in the race; Lee Petty won the event.

Petty’s previous best start was second, which also came at Hillsborough, a .9-mile dirt track, the previous year. Once again, Lee Petty was the race winner.

By the end of his career, Richard Petty had won 123 poles, tops for the series. Among active drivers, closest to the record is Ryan Newman with 51 career poles.

Rules package passes Charlotte test

Wrapping up Sunday’s 60th running of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:

A four-wide pass for the lead on the backstretch with less than five laps remaining is something you don’t see very often in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, at Charlotte Motor Speedway or anywhere else for that matter.

But that’s what happened during Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 when Martin Truex Jr. jumped to the inside of Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch and David Ragan on the backstretch to grab the lead and eventually the win.

It was that kind of race. It was entertaining, pretty much from start to finish.

And that’s a big deal.

There’s been a lot of talk about how bad the racing has been in NASCAR, what officials should be doing to make it better and why the sport isn’t as popular as it was at one time.

But Sunday’s race at CMS showed that the 2019 rules package, developed specifically for the 1.5-mile tracks on the Cup schedule, is moving the series in the right direction.

It’s not the entire answer and honestly, with teams continuing to develop setups and finding new ways to improve performance, there never will be a “perfect” set of rules.

The ’19 package has provided better racing though, and that’s not just based on the Charlotte race. Go back a couple of weeks to Kansas, another 1.5-mile track. A good, competitive race. The mile-and-a-half at Texas? Not a lot of lead changes there, but it was an improvement with lots of movement throughout the field.

It’s not a perfect package for every layout, perhaps not even for every 1.5-mile track, but with teams still learning how to work within the box, it’s definitely an improvement.

“It’s still difficult in traffic,” Truex Jr., said after winning for the third time this season. “They drive awful in traffic, to be honest, and I don’t know how we fix that.”

Maybe, though, there’s nothing that needs fixing for a change. Based on Sunday’s race, I’d say there are a fair amount of folks who feel that way, too.

When Truex Jr., won the race for the second time Sunday evening, he joined a talented group of drivers who have multiple victories in the crown jewel event.

A talented group but a growing one as well. The driver of the No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, Truex Jr., became the 14th driver to win at least twice in the series’ longest event.

Three-time series champion and NASCAR Hall of Fame member Darrell Waltrip holds the most 600 wins, scoring five during his career. Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports) has four while Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon Buddy Baker, David Pearson and Kasey Kahne won the 600 on three occasions.

Two-time winners include Richard Petty, Fred Lorenzen, Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick, Neil Bonnett and Jim Paschal.

Truex Jr., is the third driver to win three times this year, joining JGR teammate Kyle Busch and Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski. Combined with Denny Hamlin’s two victories, JGR drivers have won eight of this year’s 13 points races.

Career win No. 22 for Truex Jr., places him in a three-way tie with Hall of Famer Terry Labonte and Team Penske driver Joey Logano at No. 35 on NASCAR’s all-time win list. Next up with 23 career wins is Ricky Rudd.

Crew chief Cole Pearn now has 20 Cup wins after 156 races and a little less than four and a half seasons with Truex Jr. That’s similar to the success of Ray Evernham, who got to 20 wins with Jeff Gordon in little more than four seasons and 124 starts. Chad Knaus reached 20 wins with Jimmie Johnson in barely four years.

It took Dale Inman less than three full seasons to accumulate 20 wins with Richard Petty in the early 1960s, hitting win No. 20 in their 105th start together.

According to seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson, “There were three or four big items that were different on our car this week than we’ve been running all year long, so we’re very happy about that.”

Johnson finished eighth Sunday and called it “a good night.” Although he led no laps, he ran anywhere from eighth to 15th much of the race and was inside the top 10 after falling back as far as 17th early in the final stage.

“We’re just trying to go from good to great and that isn’t easy,” Johnson said.

All four Hendrick cars finished in the top 10 – Chase Elliott led 43 laps and finished fourth while Alex Bowman, Johnson and pole winner William Byron finished seventh through ninth, respectively.

It’s the first time this season the organization has had all four teams finish inside the top 10 and the third consecutive race at least three have managed the feat.

Pearson finds success with Masoni ride

Sunday, May 28, 1961 – Future Hall of Fame driver David Pearson scores his first win in NASCAR’s premier series when he captured the World 600 – while driving on three tires and a rim. Pearson’s No. 3 Pontiac, owned by Daytona Beach, Fla.-businessman John Masoni, had a three-lap lead on Fireball Roberts when the right-rear tire trouble surfaced. He nursed the car around the 1.5-mile track for the final lap and a half, with a shower of sparks coming off the rim.

Pearson, 26, had won Rookie of the Year honors the previous year, driving his own entry in 22 of 44 races. For ’61, he took the ride with Masoni and chief mechanic Ray Fox. The 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway was one of three wins for Pearson and the team that season.

Richard Kagle of Green Belt, Md., lost his left leg when his No. 2 Ford was pierced by the guard rail during a crash. The metal severed his leg below the knee. Kagle, who was transported to a local hospital, was making his 25th start in the series.

Coca-Cola 600 notes

CONCORD, N.C. – In case you were wondering:

The race winner was the only driver on the lead lap at the end of three of the first five Coca-Cola 600 races (originally known as the World 600). Joe Lee Johnson, winner of the inaugural event in 1960, finished four laps ahead of runner-up Johnny Beauchamp. It’s happened eight times overall. The final time took place in 1987 when Kyle Petty had a one-lap advantage on runner-up Morgan Shepherd.

In 14 of the first 25 World 600s, the raced ended with only two cars on the lead lap. Not sure if that was the case in other races of the era but it sure happened a lot in the 600.

• David Reutimann scored the rain-shortened victory in 2009 that saw 26 cars finish on the lead lap. That remains the most for the annual Memorial holiday weekend race.

• Last year’s race, won by Kyle Busch, ended with nine cars on the lead lap.

Allison blisters Coke 600 field

Sunday, May 26, 1991 – Davey Allison spanked the field at Charlotte Motor Speedway, rolling to an easy victory in the NASCAR Cup Series’ longest points event, the Coca-Cola 600. The official margin of victory over runner-up Ken Schrader was a deceptive 1.28 seconds – the race for the checkered flag wasn’t that close. Allison’s No. 28 Ford led 263 of the race’s 400 laps.

The win was the ninth of Allison’s career and his first in the 600, long considered one of NASCAR’s “crown jewel” events.

Allison became the third member from his family to win the event – his father Bobby won the race in 1971, ’81 and ’84; uncle Donnie Allison won the 1970 edition.

The Robert Yates Racing team had to change the engine in the car 90 minutes before the start of the race because of an issue with exhaust valve stem seals.

Allison’s feat was so impressive (it came on the heels of a dominating performance the week before in the series’ all-star race) it led Richard Childress Racing driver Dale Earnhardt to question the legality of the race engine. “Ain’t no way you can outrun an illegal car,” Earnhardt quipped after finishing third.

The race was the debut of new team owner Flossie Johnson. The wife of team owner Junior Johnson had taken on the new role after her husband was suspended and fined for an oversized engine in the previous week’s all-star race. Johnson was originally suspended 12 weeks for the infraction, however it was reduced to four upon appeal.

Tommy Ellis, filling in for the injured Geoff Bodine in the re-numbered No. 97 fielded by Mrs. Johnson, finished 16th.

A first for Petty and for Earnhardt

Sunday, May 25, 1975 – Richard Petty, a winner on nearly every track he’d set foot on, earned his first at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile layout when he captured the annual World 600 before an announced crowd of 90,000. Petty finished a lap ahead of runner-up Cale Yarborough and four laps in front of third-place David Pearson.

The victory was No. 170 for Petty; he did have a previous win at CMS, in 1961, although it was a World 600 qualifying race (67 laps; 100 miles) that counted toward a driver’s career win total at the time.

The race was the first career start in the series for future seven-time Cup champion Dale Earnhardt. The 24-year-old finished 22nd in the No. 8 Dodge fielded by car owner Ed Negre. It was Earnhardt’s only start of the season.

1970 series champion Bobby Isaac made just his second start of the season and finished 35th in the No. 63 Chevrolet of Norris Reed.

Darel Dieringer, 48, returned to competition after a layoff of more than six years. Dieringer, a seven-time winner in the series, made one start in 1969 – finishing 25th at Macon, Ga., then came back to run four races in ’75.

Tragedy overshadows Paschal win at CMS

Sunday, May 24, 1964 – Jim Paschal drove his No. 14 Petty Enterprises Plymouth to his 19th career victory, but the World 600 was marred by a multicar crash that left NASCAR idol Glen “Fireball” Roberts hospitalized with burns over much of his body. Roberts was caught up in an incident that also involved Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett. When his No. 22 Ford hit the wall, back end first, it ruptured the fuel tank and flipped over. Jarrett helped free Roberts from the burning car.

Roberts was NASCAR’s first true superstar, talented, successful and popular. Reports at the time said the Florida native was preparing to step away from competition and work with a popular beer company even though he himself did not drink.

At the time of his injuries, Roberts had 33 wins in NASCAR’s premier series, including victories in the Southern 500 and Daytona 500.

Roberts, burned over 75 percent of his body, passed away 39 days after the accident from pneumonia and blood poisoning.

Paschal finished four laps ahead of teammate Richard Petty. It was one of only two career wins on a track larger than one mile for the North Carolina native.

Lorenzen takes big track lead with 600 win

Sunday, May 23, 1965 – Fearless Freddy Lorenzen became the first two-time winner of the World 600 and set a record for superspeedway victories in the process when he captured the longest race on the NASCAR premier series schedule. Lorenzen, driving the No. 28 Ford for Holman-Moody, beat runner-up Earl Balmer to the finish line by just three seconds to earn his 22nd career victory.

The victory was Lorenzen’s 10th on NASCAR superspeedways, one more than the late Glen “Fireball” Roberts won between ’50 and ’64. Lorenzen had two wins at Darlington, four at Atlanta, two at Charlotte and one at Daytona prior to his second victory in the 600.

International road racing standout Pedro Rodriguez of Mexico City finished fifth, his lone top five in six career starts in the NASCAR series. Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, the road course used by NASCAR’s Busch (now Xfinity) Series in 2005-08, is named in honor of Rodriguez and his younger brother Ricardo. Both died in separate racing incidents.