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.

Waltrip overcomes blunder, lost laps for win

Sunday, April 27, 1980 – Darrell Waltrip made a blunder on pit road but recovered to make up four laps, chase down Benny Parsons and win the rain-hampered Virginia 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

• The race was one of the first to utilize NASCAR’s new short-track tire rule which penalized teams two laps for changing tires under the yellow flag. Waltrip had followed the pace car onto pit road after the fourth caution of the race on lap 182 before realizing he could not take on tire without penalty. “It was just driver error,” Waltrip said afterward. “I guess we sort of panicked and … changed all four tires.”

• The race was delayed twice by rain but completed in its entirety. Officials were hopeful of reaching the halfway point, thus making it official, when rain returned a second time at lap 230.

• Parsons, Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough and Joe Millikan rounded out the top five. L.G. DeWitt, owner of Millikan’s team and a championship winner with Parsons in 1973, announced two days after the race that the No. 72 team was shutting down.

Going out on top with the Monte Carlo

Sunday, April 23, 1989 – Darrell Waltrip captured the Pannill Sweatshirts 500 NASCAR premier series Cup race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, giving automaker Chevrolet one final win for its Monte Carlo model before teams began making the switch to the new Lumina. Waltrip beat fellow Chevrolet driver Dale Earnhardt for his 76th career victory.

It was the 95th win for the Monte Carlo model in 183 races entered beginning in 1983.

At the time, Earnhardt had the most wins in the model with 26. Waltrip had 25 wins with the piece.

Most Chevrolet teams debuted the Lumina the following week when the series moved to Talladega Superspeedway although the Monte Carlo was still approved for competition by NASCAR.

Chevrolet teams competed with the Lumina through the 1994 season before the automaker brought back the Monte Carlo as its on-track entry in ’95.

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.