Baker declared winner at Martinsville

Sunday, May 19, 1957 – Defending NASCAR premier series champion Buck Baker was declared the winner of the Virginia 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway after officials halted the event to attend to injured spectators. Contact between race leader Billy Myers and the lapped entry of Tom Pistone sent Myers’ car into the concrete barrier and over the wall on lap 441 of the 500-lap event.

Nine-year-old Alvin Helsaveck suffered a head injury when he was struck by debris from the crash. According to reports, four other spectators suffered non-life threatening injuries.

Neither Myers nor Pistone was hurt in the crash.

The victory was career win No. 29 for Baker.

Officials were preparing to resume the race, which had been slowed earlier for 45 minutes due to rain, when rain returned and the race was declared official.

Checkered flag a first in Cup for Waltrip

Saturday, May 18, 1996 – Michael Waltrip, winless in 309 NASCAR premier series points races, finally made it to victory lane – in a race that paid no points. Waltrip motored past a tangling Dale Earnhardt and Terry Labonte eight laps from the finish of the Winston Select All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway to score the surprising victory.

Waltrip, driving the No. 21 Ford for Wood Brothers Racing, was the final driver to advance out of the Winston Open, a 50-lap qualifier that saw the top five finishers advance to the Winston Select. He became the first driver to win the All-Star race after advancing out of the qualifying race.

Waltrip wasn’t exactly a stranger to the winner’s circle in NASCAR – he had seven Busch (now XFINITY) Series wins prior to his win in the All-Star race.

Rusty Wallace, Earnhardt, Mark Martin and Labonte rounded out the top five.

Waltrip earned $211,200 for the victory.

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.

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.

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.

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.