Pearson’s final win comes at Darlington

Sunday, April 13, 1980 – No rust was evident for David Pearson as the Silver Fox from Spartanburg, S.C., made a triumphant return to NASCAR’s premier series, winning the CRC Chemicals Rebel 300 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. It was the three-time champion’s first start in the series since winning the Southern 500 Labor Day classic on the same track the previous year.

The victory was No. 105 for Pearson, driver of the No. 1 Hoss Ellington-owned Chevrolet, and was his last in NASCAR’s top series. He was the second driver to top 100 victories and currently remains second on the all-time win list behind Richard Petty (200 wins). He ended his racing career with a Darlington track record 10 victories.

The race was stopped after 258 of the 367 scheduled laps had been completed due to darkness. Earlier, the race had been delayed for 2 hr., 18 min., because of rain. Pearson led a race-high 99 circuits around the 1.366-mile track.

Pole winner Benny Parsons, Harry Gant, Darrell Waltrip and Dick Brooks completed the top five.

Golden Boy gets win amid threats of lawsuit

Sunday, April 9, 1961 – Fred Lorenzen scores his first career victory in NASCAR’s premier series when he is declared the winner of the Virginia 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. The win comes in his 20th career start and in the No. 28 Holman-Moody Ford in which he captured 27 of his 28 career victories.

Lorenzen’s first NASCAR victory came in a rain-shortened race. Only 171 of the scheduled 500 laps had been completed when the event was halted due to rain. However, because the final 23 laps, from lap 149-171, were run under caution, the official length of the race is listed as 149 laps.

After the race, NASCAR president Bill France announced that the race would be rescheduled for April 30; the race would be considered official, however, and another Martinsville race was simply added to what was previously a 51-race schedule.

The “rescheduling” brought threats of a lawsuit from Darlington (S.C.) track president Bob Colvin who contended that his track’s contract with NASCAR forbid any race being scheduled or re-scheduled for April 30, which was one week prior to the running of Darlington’s Rebel 300. France told the Associated Press that it was his understanding that the contract with Darlington did not take into consideration rain dates.

Colvin said he told NASCAR to “hire some lawyers for I will go to court. … I guarantee you one thing. If this (Martinsville) wasn’t France’s track, there wouldn’t be any argument at all.”

At the time, the Martinsville track, which began hosting NASCAR-sanctioned races in 1949, was co-owned by founder H. Clay Earles and France.

Silver Fox to fill seat for departing Allison

Friday, March 28, 1980 – David Pearson, winner of 104 NASCAR premier series races and two championships, is named to replace Donnie Allison as driver of the No. 1 Hoss Ellington entry just five races into the season. The amicable split left Allison hoping to find a ride with a team competing full-time on the circuit. The Ellington organization was expected to compete in no more than a dozen races, a schedule Pearson finds attractive.

Pearson made nine starts with the Hawaiian Tropic-sponsored team in ’80. He won in his first start with the team, capturing the Rebel 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. It was his 105th and final win in NASCAR’s top series. He also finished second at Daytona that July and second when the series returned to Darlington for the annual Southern 500.

Allison drove for the Ellington organization from 1977 through ’80. He made just three starts in his final season with the team, finishing seventh (Daytona), fifth (Rockingham) and 26th (Atlanta). Four of his 10 career wins came while driving for the team.

For Speed, victory comes at Darlington

Sunday, March 27, 1988 – Lake Speed snapped a 163-race winless streak in the NASCAR premier series when he captured the TranSouth 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. The 40-year-old from Jackson, Miss., led 178 of the race’s 367 laps, including the final 48.

Speed raced for several different owners during his Cup career, but his victory came at a time he was competing as an owner/driver. His No. 83 Oldsmobile finished 19 seconds ahead of runner-up Alan Kulwicki.

Prior to his victory, Speed’s best result had been a pair of runner-up finishes, in the 1985 Daytona 500 and ’88 Goodwrench 500 at Rockingham, N.C.

Davey Allison, Bill Elliott and Sterling Marlin completed the top five. Only the top three cars finished on the lead lap.

Speed made 238 more NASCAR starts after his victory but was never able to repeat the feat and return to victory lane. Considered by many one of the series’ most underrated drivers, Speed finished with 16 top-five and 75 top-10 finishes in 402 career premier series starts.

Jarrett, Fords undaunted by rule changes

Sunday, March 22, 1998 – Dale Jarrett’s victory in the TranSouth 400 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway was just the second victory for a Ford team in the season’s first five races, but it came on the heels of a second NASCAR rule change aimed at taking away a perceived aerodynamic advantage the auto maker enjoyed on the race track. Earlier that week, officials had instructed Ford teams to decrease the width of the spoilers on the back of their cars by two inches. Eight of the top 10 finishers at Darlington were Fords.

NASCAR had previously required Ford teams to decrease the height of their spoiler from five inches to 4.75 inches after the auto maker swept nine of the top 10 spots at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

At Darlington, spoilers on Ford entries were decreased from 57 inches wide to 55 inches, the same as that on Chevrolet and Pontiac entries. Ford teams placed five or more teams in the top 10 in all of the season’s first five races.

“We built a good race car and all they’ve (NASCAR) done from the second race on is take stuff away from us,” Jarrett said afterward.

Ford drivers led all 293 laps in the TranSouth Financial 400 at Darlington.

Ownership proves tricky for DW

Tuesday, March 17, 1998 – Darrell Waltrip, the three-time NASCAR premier series champion (1981-82, ’85) and winningest active driver announces that he will put his single-car organization up for sale following the March 22 TranSouth 400 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. Waltrip said he did not know how the sale would impact his own driving career going forward but that he is exploring all options.

With financial problems arising surrounding sponsorship from Speedblock and Builders Square, Waltrip was forced to dip into his own bank account to help keep his Darrell Waltrip Motorsports (initially DarWal, Inc.) organization afloat. But after the season’s first four races, Waltrip made the call to put the team up for sale.

At Darlington, his No. 17 Chevrolet carried a final paint scheme paying homage to former NASCAR champion Tim Flock, who was battling cancer.

Waltrip would go on to compete in 13 races for Dale Earnhardt Inc., subbing for the injured Steve Park, before joining Tyler Jet Motorsports for the season’s final 15 races.

In his final 10 years as an owner/driver Waltrip won five times during 1991-92 – at North Wilkesboro, Pocono (twice), Bristol and Darlington. The Southern 500 victory was the 84th and final Cup win of his career.