Yarborough wins; Earnhardt injured

Monday, July 30, 1979 – Three-time NASCAR premier series champion Cale Yarborough won the rain-delayed Coca-Cola 500 under caution while rookie of the year points leader Dale Earnhardt was transported to a local hospital following a hard crash at the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway. Yarborough, driving the No. 11 Chevrolet fielded by owner Junior Johnson, beat Darrell Waltrip out of the pits during a final fuel stop and was leading when a final yellow appeared for a crash involving Nelson Oswald. Officials were unable to clear the track in time for a one-lap dash under green, giving Yarborough his third win of the season.

Earnhardt, driving the No. 2 Chevrolet of Rod Osterlund, blew a tire and struck the wall hard just two laps from the 100-lap mark. The former race leader was transported to a local hospital where he was diagnosed with a concussion, one broken collarbone and one cracked collarbone.

Two days after the crash, the Osterlund team announced veteran David Pearson would fill in as driver until Earnhardt was able to return. The injuries kept Earnhardt sidelined for the following four races. Pearson, winner of 103 career races, had split with Wood Brothers Racing earlier in the year.

Richard Petty, Buddy Baker, Benny Parsons and Ricky Rudd completed the top five in the race, which was run one day later than originally scheduled due to rain.

Waltrip finished seventh in a “borrowed” car that was practically rebuilt after he crashed his own entry during practice. Unable to make the necessary repairs to his car, Waltrip “bought” a ride in the No. 22 of Al Rudd.

Rookie Harry Gant finished 15th in the No. 47 Jack Beebe Race Hill Farm entry after winning his first premier series pole.

Elliott ends skid with MIS victory

Sunday, June 15, 1986 – Bill Elliott, winner of 11 races the previous season, scores his first NASCAR Cup Series win of ’86 with a victory in the Miller American 400 at Michigan International Speedway. The victory ended a 14-race skid for the Dawsonville, Ga.-based racer. Elliott made the winning pass with five laps remaining when he overtook Harry Gant. It was the 16th win of his career and fourth on the 2-mile MIS layout.

Gant, the runner-up, was racing a week after sustaining injuries in the waning laps at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. Also injured in the Pocono crash was veteran independent driver Buddy Arrington.

Rick Baldwin, driving in place of Arrington at MIS, was critically injured when his entry slammed into the wall while attempting to qualify. Baldwin remained in a coma for 11 years before passing in 1997.

Richard Petty was honored in pre-race for making what was said to be his 1,000th career start in the Cup Series. Daughters Lisa, Rebecca and Sharon gave the command to start engines twice – first for their father and then for the remainder of the field. However, Petty actually reached the milestone start three weeks later when the series visited Daytona International Speedway. The mistake was due to Petty being credited with a non-points start in 1959.

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.

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.

Trickle and a win for the aged

Saturday, March 29, 1997 – Short-track standout Dick Trickle became the oldest winner in the NASCAR Busch Grand National (now XFINITY) Series when he captured the Galaxy Foods 300 at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Trickle was 55 years, five months and three days old. He passed defending series champion Randy LaJoie with 22 laps remaining for the final lead change of the race.

The victory was the first in the series for the Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., native. It came in his 51st start.

A little more than a year after the victory, Trickle would break his own record, winning the Dura-Lube 200 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway at 56 years, 10 months and nine days. It was his final victory in the series.

Trickle, the 1989 Cup series rookie of the year, remains the oldest driver to win a race in one of NASCAR’s national series (Cup, XFINITY and Truck). Harry Gant holds the record in Cup, winning at 52 years, seven months and six days; Joe Ruttman’s win at Pikes Peak in 2001 earned him the title of oldest winner in the Truck Series – he was 56 years, six months and 22 days at the time.