In my years protecting NASCAR occasions, I’ve by no means raced in Nashville—not in what was generally known as the Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville (everybody known as it “Nashville”) or the brand new Nashville Superspeedway.
I am unable to clarify it, actually. What occurred occurred. When the Nashville race began, he thought I ought to have been elsewhere.
The Nashville Fairgrounds monitor has been a staple of NASCAR for years. Her first race was held in 1958, and was received by Joe Weatherly.
At 0.596 miles, it was one in every of NASCAR’s quick, versatile tracks, which, at one level, have been deserted in droves amid the conquest of super-speed and the decreased schedule ensuing from the formation of the Winston Cup circuit.
However Nashville was the primary modern-day quick course that NASCAR dropped. Its final two races have been held in 1984. The primary of those two races came about in Might of that 12 months. And it has gone down in NASCAR lore as one of the vital weird, controversial – and within the case of the sanctioning physique, embarrassing – occasions within the historical past of the game.
The race is over and there’s a winner. Nonetheless, his victory got here with a protest from the driving force who completed second. Nothing new about it. Nonetheless, getting this, the drivers have been concerned colleagues.
Now, logic dictates that as members of the identical staff, drivers will settle for the circumstances within the spirit of teamwork. Apparently, this isn’t the case. And Nashville will not be the one instance.
In 1959, Richard Petty apparently received the primary race of his profession at Lakewood Speedway in Atlanta. Nonetheless, Petty, Richard’s father and fellow Petty Enterprises affiliate, protested to me.
The eldest Betty mentioned his son had already taken the tied flag, however the recording was mistaken. Lee petted his son twice, not as soon as. Richard hadn’t absolutely hit the lacking distance when the race was over. NASCAR agreed and Richard needed to wait till February 28, 1960 to attain his first victory on the Charlotte Fairgrounds.
In 1984, Junior Johnson shaped the primary multi-car staff in his lengthy profession as a staff proprietor. His first driver was Daryl Waltrip, who acquired on board in 1981 and has already received two Winston Cups. He was joined by Neil Bonet, a rising star from Alabama whose potential Johnson readily acknowledged.
In actual fact, it was Bonet who took the checkered flag in Nashville. Nevertheless it was Waltrip that was declared the victor by a NASCAR official on the Press Belief.
Confusion reigned when Waltrip and Bonet went down the street to victory. Neither of them was smiling as they stood by their vehicles, surrounded by an astonished crew answerable for the race.
Lastly, Bonet was declared the winner primarily based on the interpretation of the “white flag rule” buried within the NASCAR rulebook.
Waltrip and Johnson have been livid. File a protest and the accompanying $200 charge.
“I’ve by no means seen, by no means seen Neil subsequent to me,” Waltrip mentioned in keeping with the Grand Nationwide Scene Report Discipline by longtime editor Gary McCready. “After that wreck, the white and yellow flags got here up and also you wouldn’t have to return to the yellow as a result of we had already taken the yellow. When it got here out, the race was over.”
Waltrip didn’t utter his phrases. He did not, in truth. “This race was ridiculous and NASCAR is simply attempting to kill somebody.”
The controversial closing state of affairs was created by a multi-vehicle wreck with solely 4 laps left. Waltrip and Bonet are compelled to race their method round a burning Buick with Bobby Allison on the again.
They have been facet by facet on the fourth flip after which Bonet stepped ahead to boost the checkered flag two ft.
NASCAR determined that the white flag was proven first, then the yellow flag. As soon as this occurs, “All vehicles will probably be registered in keeping with their places when the checkered flag is taken.”
However in keeping with Waltrip, that wasn’t the case. Yellow and white flags have been displayed collectively. The race is over.
It took NASCAR 48 hours to make its closing verdict. Some skeptics asserted that for the reason that sanctioning physique had used its rulebook to award Bonet the win, it took so lengthy to “rewrite the principles”.
Most probably, the reality is that NASCAR took two days to determine the way to interpret its slips, and on the similar time, save face.
It was daring NASCAR Winston Cup director Dick Petty who declared that Waltrip was certainly the winner and that the physique that imposed the penalty had mistakenly dominated in any other case.
“Our intentions are all the time within the curiosity of security,” Betty mentioned. “Permitting drivers to race a full lap previous the yellow flag and cross the crash on the again was not within the curiosity of security.
“On this case, the cautionary flag was thrown earlier than the commanders reached the beginning and end line and never throughout the white flag cycle as we initially dominated. The final cycle ought to have been carried out below warning.”
Petty allowed NASCAR to “misread the rule on the conclusion of the race and fail to include the intent of the yellow flag rule.”
Now, through the years NASCAR hasn’t typically admitted its wrongdoing. Apparently 48 hours after Nashville, you have not discovered a substitute.
Years later, Johnson was requested why he was so involved concerning the guidelines. In spite of everything, his staff would have earned the primary and second place cash, simply as Petty Enterprises did in 1959.
“I knew that,” he mentioned. “Nevertheless it was sort of enjoyable to observe NASCAR swing by.”
Nicely, he had some extent. In spite of everything, it did not occur fairly often.
Steve Wade has been in journalism since 1972, when he began his newspaper profession at Martinsville Bulletin (Virginia). He has spent greater than 40 years in motorsports journalism, first with the Roanoke Occasions-World Information and later as writer and vice chairman of NASCAR Scene and NASCAR Illustrated.
Steve has received a number of State Sports activities Writing Awards and lots of different awards from the Nationwide Motorsport Affiliation for his motorsport protection, essay writing and columns. For a number of years, Steve has been an everyday participant on “NASCAR This Morning” on FOX Sports activities Internet, and is the co-author with Tom Higgins of the biopic “Junior Johnson: Courageous In Life.”
In January 2014, Steve was inducted into the NMPA Corridor of Fame. And in 2019, he was awarded a Squier-Corridor Award by the NASCAR Corridor of Fame for lifelong excellence in motorsports journalism. Along with writing for Frontstretch, Steve can also be the co-host of Podcast Scene Vault.
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