Stewart wins on record-setting night/day

Sunday, May 5, 2002 – It was a race that featured several notable items so perhaps it makes sense that it took two days to complete the Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway. Rain, which delayed the previous day’s scheduled start of the race by two hours, eventually returned after less than 70 laps had been completed and forced officials to postpone the completion of the event until the following day.

Tony Stewart won the race, for the second consecutive year, but had to come from the rear of the field to score the victory after a pre-race engine change negated his third-place qualifying run. Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Bobby Labonte, eighth in qualifying, also went to the back for a similar issue. And when Johnny Benson suffered a broken rib in Friday night’s Hardee’s 250 Busch race, Joe Nemechek took over the ride, and a third Pontiac was sent to the rear before the Cup race ever got under way.

It was Stewart’s third win at Richmond, site of his first career victory in the series in 1999.

By starting the event, Ricky Rudd tied Terry Labonte for most consecutive starts in the Cup series at 655.

A new sealer put down on the track led to less than ideal racing conditions and as a result, there were a track record 103 laps run under caution and the 14 caution flags tied the track record.

The race was the final Cup start for local favorite Rick Mast in the Junie Donlavey-owned No. 90 Ford. Mast, diagnosed with chronic and acute carbon monoxide poisoning, announced his retirement from competition in January, 2003.

Tragedy strikes at Talladega

Sunday, May 4, 1975 – Tragedy struck at Talladega when a pressurized water tank explosion claimed the life of Randy G. Owens, a crewman on the No. 43 team of Richard Petty, during the running of the Winston 500 at Alabama International Speedway.

Petty had pitted with a fire in his left-front wheel on lap 141 of the 188-lap race; Owen, 21, turned on the pressure on the tank to put out the fire when the explosion occurred, throwing him into the air.

The brother of Petty’s wife Lynda, Randy Owens worked with the Petty team for approximately four years. He left a wife, Jan, and two sons – Travis, 2, and Trent, 1. Trent Owens is currently crew chief for the No. 37 JTG-Daugherty Chevrolet of driver Chris Buescher in NASCAR’s premier series.

Also injured in the explosion was Gary Rogers, a crewman for driver Benny Parsons. He was treated for minor injuries after being struck by debris from the tank.

Buddy Baker won the race, holding off David Pearson to score the victory.

Davey wins, Bobby flips, NASCAR reacts

Sunday, May 3, 1987 – Second-generation racer Davey Allison charged to his first career victory in NASCAR’s premier series when he captured the Winston 500 at Alabama International Motor Speedway (now Talladega Superspeedway). Allison led 101 of 178 laps in a race that was shortened 10 laps due to a 2 hr., 38 min. delay caused by a crash involving his father, 1983 premier series champion Bobby Allison.

The win came in the younger Allison’s 14th start in the series and was the first of 19 he would earn before his death six years later. His No. 28 Ford, fielded by owner Harry Ranier, crossed the finish line 0.65 second ahead of runner-up Terry Labonte.

Bobby Allison’s car became airborne on lap 22 while running through the tri-oval at the 2.66-mile track and tore down approximately 150 feet of fencing along the frontstretch. Debris thrown into the grandstands injured several spectators – three were transported to areas hospitals with non-life- threatening injuries. Others were seen and released by safety personnel at the track. Bobby Allison was not injured nor were any of the nine other drivers involved in the incident.

Bill Elliott had established a series qualifying record only days earlier at the Talladega track with his lap of 212.809 mph. Lap speeds were consistently in the 208-210 mph range throughout the race.

Because of the Allison incident, NASCAR required the use of smaller carburetors at remaining Talladega and Daytona races that season, a move to slow the cars down. At that time, those were the only two tracks where cars exceeded 200 mph.

When teams returned to Daytona the following February, NASCAR had mandated the use of carburetor restrictor plates to slow the cars. That process remained in place until the completion of this year’s Daytona 500. Engines are now equipped with tapered spacers, which also restrict horsepower, instead of the plates.

Nadeau critically injured in Richmond crash

Friday, May 2, 2003 – NASCAR premier series driver Jerry Nadeau, a one-time race winner, was critically injured in a crash during practice for the Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway. The 32-year-old had to be cut from his Pontiac race car after it slammed into the outside wall in Turn 2. He was airlifted to the Medical College of Virginia.

Nadeau, who had qualified 12th for the upcoming race prior to the crash, spun his No. 01 MBV Motorsports entry and the car struck the outside wall on the driver’s side.

The Danbury, Conn., native sustained head, lung and rib injuries as a result of the crash, injuries that ended his driving career. He was wearing a head and neck restraining device, made mandatory following the 2001 death of seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt.

Nadeau made 177 starts from 1997-03. His lone career win came in the season-ending 2000 NAPA 500 while driving for Hendrick Motorsports. He also earned nine top-five and 19 top-10 finishes.

In addition to his Cup effort, Nadeau also made eight starts in the Xfinity Series and one in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

Parsons breaks through, Foyt suspended

Sunday, May 1, 1988 – Phil Parsons, younger brother of 1973 NASCAR premier series champion Benny Parsons, scored his first career victory in the series with a win in the Winston 500 at Alabama International Motor Speedway (now Talladega Superspeedway). It was the 111th career start for Parsons, 30. Third-fastest in qualifying, Parsons led 52 laps in the 188-lap race in his No. 55 Oldsmobile, including the final 15. Bobby Allison, Geoff Bodine, Terry Labonte and Ken Schrader completed the top five.

A.J. Foyt, an infrequent NASCAR competitor through the years, was suspended for six months by the sanctioning body and fined $5,000 for “conduct detrimental to the sport.” Foyt was involved in an on-track incident with fellow driver Alan Kulwicki under caution, ignored NASCAR directives, was black flagged and allegedly swerved at officials when coming to pit road and the garage.

NASCAR officials eventually lifted the Foyt suspension, however his fine was increased from $5,000 to $7,500. In addition, he was placed on probation for two races.

Parson’s Talladega victory, which came with car owners Richard and Leo Jackson, was his only win in the premier series although he made 92 more starts through 1997.

At Talladega, it’s the lure of the unknown

Looking back on an interesting Geico 500 weekend from Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway:

Folks said they didn’t know what to expect when the field took the green flag for Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway but when has that not been the case at NASCAR’s biggest track?

Talladega has forever been the “unknown” when it comes to the top series, from the first race there in 1969 (PDA boycott) right up until today.

It’s part of its, well, charm sounds too nice.

There’s always been the danger factor and the speed factor and today the folks down there between Atlanta and Birmingham really push the party factor, too.

As long as the racing fits the bill, party on.

NASCAR has been known to change the rules to fit the situation and the situation was no different this time around. When speeds began to climb on Friday (eight cars were clocked at 202-plus during opening practice), adjustments were made. A one-inch wicker bill was added to a spoiler that was already just three inches shy of a foot tall.

The next time on the track, the cars went even faster. Maybe they were more stable …

What happened?

Well, a good race for one. Which wasn’t or should not have been a surprise. After all, it was Talladega and it’s a rare occasion when the 2.66-mile track offers up a dud. Lead changes and three- and four-wide packs and a few crashes that always seem to occur were the order of the day.

In other words, a typical Talladega race. Competitive, interesting and so different from races contested elsewhere.

The series will return to Talladega in October and chances are folks will arrive once again suggesting they don’t know what to expect.

Don’t listen to them though. They know. After all, it’s Talladega.

Chase Elliott became the season’s sixth different race winner when he captured Sunday’s Geico 500. There’s a playoff spot with his name on it, along with ones for Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. (all of Joe Gibbs Racing) as well as Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano (both of Team Penske).

All six of this year’s race winners were playoff participants a year ago.

Where does career win No. 4 put Elliott? At No. 79 on NASCAR’s all-time win list, along with former racers Bob Flock and Chargin’ Charlie Glotzbach and Bobby Hamilton.

Morgan Shepherd, the 77-year-old who still makes the occasional Xfinity Series start, and Ken Schrader also had four career Cup wins, as did Michael Waltrip and Wood Brothers Racing patriarch Glen Wood.

Elliott is one of four drivers to win four times for Hendrick Motorsports – joining Schrader, Kyle Busch and Ricky Rudd.

There’s a four-driver lineup when it comes to wins while working with crew chief Alan Gustafson as well. Elliott (4), Mark Martin (5), Busch (4)) and Jeff Gordon (11). That’s win No. 24 for Gustafson.

The win was the first for Chevrolet this season; dating back to the 2018 Daytona 500 the automaker has five victories and four belong to Elliott.

After sweeping the top three spots at Daytona, it was something of a surprise to see Toyota teams off the mark at Talladega. Kyle Busch was tops for the manufacturer with his 10th-place finish. Truex Jr., led 11 laps, most for the group. He finished 20th.

Busch and teammate Hamlin combined to lead 67 laps at Daytona, where Hamlin won.

The most obvious difference, aside from the rules package – Joe Gibbs Racing drivers worked closely with Hendrick (Chevrolet) teams at Daytona; at Talladega, Chevrolet organizations were practically under orders to work only with one another.

NASCAR penalized the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing team Tuesday for a violation found during opening-day inspection at Talladega.

According to the official penalty report, body filler was used on the rear deck lid of the Chevrolet. Per the rule book, the deck lid must be used as supplied by the manufacturer.

Crew chief Danny Stockman has been fined $25,000 and car chief Greg Ebert has been suspended for one Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points race. The team was also docked 10 championship owner and driver points for the L1 infraction.

The only other penalty noted from Talladega – Jeremy Bullins, crew chief for Ryan Blaney, was fined $10,000 for a missing lug nut on the No. 12 Team Penske Ford.

NASCAR officials also noted that Austin Wayne Self, a competitor in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series, has completed the sanctioning body’s Road To Recovery program and his suspension has been lifted.

Driving for his family-owned team, Self finished ninth (Daytona), 27th (Atlanta) and 15th (Las Vegas) this season prior to his suspension for a failed drug test.

A two-day Goodyear tire test scheduled for Tuesday/Wednesday, April 20-May 1 at Chicagoland Speedway, was scuttled due to weather concerns. The test has been rescheduled for May 7-8. Drivers listed to participate are Brad Keselowski (Team Penske No. 2 Ford), Ryan Newman (Roush Fenway Racing No. 6 Ford) and Paul Menard (Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford).

Elliott sizzles at Talladega with record lap

Friday, April 30, 1987 – Bill Elliott didn’t go as fast as many had predicted but the Dawsonville, Ga. native still managed to win the pole with the fastest qualifying lap ever run in NASCAR. Elliott toured the 2.66-mile Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in 44.998 seconds for an average speed of 212.809 mph to break his own track qualifying record set the previous year (212.229 mph).

The Winston 500 pole was Elliott’s third of the season and his fifth consecutive pole at the Alabama track.

Temperatures in the 90-degree range slowed qualifying speeds – most expected Elliott to run as fast as 215 had conditions been cooler. In testing earlier that year, Elliott had run an unofficial fast lap of 214.206 mph,

Bobby Allison and Davey Allison qualified second and third, respectively, while Darrell Waltrip (fourth) and Dale Earnhardt (fifth) completed the top five.

Thirty-two years after his accomplishment, Elliott’s pole winning speed remains the fastest official qualifying lap ever turned in NASCAR.

A Pearson victory and a controversy

Sunday, April 29, 1973 – The Virginia 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway was your typical exciting short-track race, ending with David Pearson in victory lane following a lengthy late-race duel with Cale Yarborough. The pair battled for the top spot for more than 50 laps before Yarborough spun his No. 11 Chevrolet, leaving Pearson to sail away in his No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford. But it was a caution on lap 374 of the 500-lap race that left Yarborough and team manager Junior Johnson feeling robbed.

NASCAR officials threw the caution flag to allow an ambulance to exit the track and transport a heart attack victim to a local hospital. Pearson, two laps down earlier in the race, got back on the lead lap when the yellow appeared and after Yarborough had pitted under green moments earlier. Johnson said teams weren’t told the yellow was going to come out and the move “cost us that race.”

The victory was Pearson’s first at Martinsville, one of 11 victories in only 16 starts that season for the Spartanburg, S.C. native.

Yarborough, who led 314 laps, managed to finish second in spite of his late-race spin. Bobby Isaac, Buddy Baker and Cecil Gordon completed the top five.

Fight overshadows Goldsmith victory

Sunday, April 28, 1957 – Paul Goldsmith won the season’s 13th race in the NASCAR premier series, held at Greensboro Agricultural Fairgrounds, but it was the altercation between Tiny Lund and the Petty family that is still talked about today. It was the first win of the year for Goldsmith, driving for owner Smokey Yunick, and the second of his career. He bested a field of 19 on the .333-mile dirt track.

Lund and the Pettys were involved in a fracas that didn’t end until Elizabeth Petty, wife of Lee Petty, began pummeling Lund with her purse, which reportedly held a .38 pistol.

There are minor differences in the story of the fight – some say it started before the race began during pre-race introductions while others say it occurred after the race while Lund and Petty were in line at the payout window. Regardless of when it began, all agree that Lund was fighting, and whipping, Lee as well as his sons Richard and Maurice Petty when pistol-packing Elizabeth Petty stepped in and began whacking Lund with her purse.

The race was the last before NASCAR officials outlawed what was considered high performance equipment (superchargers and fuel injection). It was hoped the move would level the field, which had been dominated by Ford and Chevrolet teams.

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.