March 31st, 2015
The Race: The 1991 Banquet Frozen Foods 300was run on June 9th at the tricky Sonoma Raceway road course. Bumping and banging in the final laps led to a controversial finish that saw the car that crossed the finish line first, finish second.
The Coverage: ESPN Speedworld coverage of the rain delayed event featured Bob Jenkins, Benny Parsons, and Ned Jarrett in the booth. Roaming pit road was Dr. Jerry Punch and John Kernan.
Story Line: Dale Earnhardt came into the race at Sonoma looking to continue padding his point lead over Ricky Rudd. He would have his work out for him as Rudd grabbed the pole with a lap of 90.634 mph. Earnhardt had the third best lap, but not being known as a road racer, he would have to try his all to finish ahead of Rudd.
Road Course Ringers: The 43 car field featured many road course ringers. California native Tommy Kendall got a shot in the SABCO Racing Pontiac, substituting for Kyle Petty who was recovering from a broken leg. Another ringer was Irv Hoerr driving a #44 Oldsmobile for Terry Labonte. The field also featured a handful of Winston West competitors including Bill Schmitt, Bill Sedgwick, Hershel McGriff, and Scott Gaylord.
Driver Standings: Coming into the event Dale Earnhardt held a 82 point lead over Ricky Rudd. Darrell Waltrip (-142), Harry Gant (-196), Ken Schrader (-205), Ernie Irvan (-222), Davey Allison (-259), Morgan Shepherd (-316), Michael Waltrip (-333), and Mark Martin (-339) were the top-10 coming into the event.
Momentum On His Side: The last time the Winston Cup Series, now Sprint Cup Series, was on a road course, Ricky Rudd scored the victory at Watkins Glen in August of 1990. This time out Rudd had new colors with Tide being on his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, but was looking for the same result.
He Crushed It: A very scary wreck involving Richard Petty on the 59th left the 7-time champion bruised, but no worse for wear. His car shot off course and head on into a concrete barrier. ESPN’s Benny Parsons was stationed in that corner and reported of the hard impact, as cameras missed Petty’s car. It took a few minutes for the safety crew to help Petty out of the car. Son Kyle Petty, recovering from a broken leg, made his way to the scene despite crutches to see what he could do.
Too Fast For His Engine: Rusty Wallace appeared headed to victory after leading 45 laps. He lost the lead during pit stops, the lost a cylinder with 10 laps to go. He would limp around and salvage a third place finish.
Almost Upset: Tommy Kendall took the lead on lap 60 and seemed like he would shock the NASCAR world and pick up the victory. Battling with Mark Martin with four laps to go, the pair made contact. It sent Martin spinning and cut a tire on Kendall’s car. Forced to pit, Kendall would fall to 18th overall.
The Contact: After Kendall and Martin took each other out, that handed the lead to Davey Allison. Allison had Rudd hot on his tails and the pair raced through the 72nd lap. Going through the hairpin turn 11, Rudd made contact with Allison, sending Allison spinning. Rudd got past the spinning Allison to take the lead and take the white flag. Allison recovered and held onto second place.
The Call: NASCAR determined the actions by Rudd warranted a stop and go penalty. Rudd had already taken the white flag, so instead of pulling down pit road, he proceeded to race towards the start/finish line. When he got there, he was met with the black flag. The flagman, Doyle Ford, then displayed the checkered flag for Davey Allison when he crossed the finish line four seconds later.
The Winner: While he didn’t cross the finish line first, Davey Allison was declared the winner. Smartly, he stopped after getting the checkered flag, turned around, and went right to victory lane. While Ricky Rudd made his victory lap, Allison and his team was getting the trophy.
Allison’s POV: Allison’s take on what happened put himself as an innocent victim. “I had the lead on the inside of the turn. I didn’t cut anybody off. (When he hit me) it lifted the wheels of my car off the ground and turned me around. I’m not saying it was intentional, but it could have been avoided. The race was taken away from us in unsportsmanship fashion and given back to us as justification.”
What Confusion? Allison’s crew chief Larry McReynolds was less composed with his side of things. “I don’t see how there could be confusion (on Rudd getting black flag and Allison the checkered), I worked with Ricky Rudd for two years and that ain’t Ricky Rudd’s style. If they let him get by with that, then I ain’t got a whole lot to say about NASCAR’s procedures. The 28 Texaco Havoline Ford won the race and that’s the way it is.”
It’s The WWF: Rudd obviously disagreed with the call. “I’ve never seen anything like this. Everyone was racing hard the last four or five laps. I got into Davey and it was my fault. I put on the brakes and the car started hopping. I came around to take the checkered flag and the black flag was out. I don’t understand it. I had completed the last lap. This will definitely make me take a look at this sport and rethink my future. If you’ve ever seen the World Federation of Wrestling, this is it.”
NASCAR Fix: Rudd also went on the suggest that it was a move by NASCAR to appease Ford. Coming into the event, General Motors (Chevrolet, Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac) had won 10 of the first 11 races. “NASCAR needed a Ford in victory lane. NASCAR makes the rules. I’m fed up with this mess.”
The Rottenest Thing: Rudd’s crew chief Waddell Wilson was understandably upset by the call. “It’s the rottenest thing I’ve seen in NASCAR, and I’ve been around since 1961. They didn’t do anything to Kendall or Martin when they wrecked.”
NASCAR’s Explanation: Les Richter, Director of the Series, explained the ruling. “We’re trying to maintain law and order. That’s what it’s all about. Ricky hit Davey in the rear and spun Davey out. He was racing very hard into the corner, racing to win. But there comes a time when you have to call balls and strikes; to make a judgment call.”
Fight Club: Contact between Ernie Irvan and Chad Little led to a fight between the crews and reportedly Little clocking Irvan in the eye. “I had gotten under Chad in the carousel and he didn’t see me, so he ended up spinning out. The next time I came around, he drilled me into the grass. In the garage area, he was mouthing off about me, but I was ignoring it. Then the crews got involved and it all started,” explained Irvan after the race. Little’s take was a bit different, as would be expected, “He said he was all the way underneath me, but go look at the car.”
Time Flies: The 186.5 mile event took 2 hours, 33 minutes, and 20 seconds to complete.
Points Shake Out: Despite not getting the victory, Rudd did chip off 29 points from Earnhardt’s lead. A 27th place finish for Harry Gant dropped him from 4th in points back to 7th. Ken Schrader moved up to 3rd, Darrell Watrip slipped to 4th. Strong runs by Ernie Irvan and winner Davey Allison moved them up each a position to 5th and 6th. Michael Waltrip, Mark Martin, and Rusty Wallace all moved up thanks to a tough race by Morgan Shepherd, who slipped out of the top-10 in points.
|3||4||2||Rusty Wallace||Miller Genuine Draft||Pontiac||74||$34,975||Running||45||175|
|4||11||4||Ernie Irvan||Kodak Film||Chevrolet||74||$20,350||Running||0||160|
|7||3||3||Dale Earnhardt||GM Goodwrench||Chevrolet||74||$19,800||Running||0||146|
|11||28||26||Brett Bodine||Quaker State||Buick||74||$10,100||Running||0||130|
|14||32||24||Mickey Gibbs||Team III Racing||Pontiac||74||$6,600||Running||0||121|
|15||29||76||Bill Sedgwick||Spears Manufacturing||Chevrolet||74||$6,400||Running||0||118|
|18||5||42||Tommy Kendall||Mello Yello||Pontiac||74||$12,450||Running||12||114|
|19||41||1||Rick Mast||Skoal Classic||Oldsmobile||73||$7,225||Running||0||106|
|20||26||9||Bill Elliott||Coors Light||Ford||73||$13,700||Running||0||103|
|21||33||52||Bobby Hillin Jr||Alka-Seltzer||Pontiac||73||$4,100||Running||0||100|
|22||35||68||Bobby Hamilton||Country Time||Oldsmobile||73||$5,775||Running||0||97|
|23||34||49||Stanley Smith||Interstate Batteries||Buick||73||$4,050||Running||0||94|
|24||16||71||Dave Marcis||Big Apple Markets||Chevrolet||72||$6,830||Running||0||91|
|25||10||17||Darrell Waltrip||Western Auto||Chevrolet||71||$4,820||Running||0||88|
|26||15||22||Sterling Marlin||Maxwell House||Ford||71||$4,650||Running||0||85|
|27||23||33||Harry Gant||Skoal Bandit||Oldsmobile||70||$6,600||Running||0||82|
|28||27||19||Chad Little||Red Baron||Ford||67||$3,850||Running||0||79|
|29||38||98||Jimmy Spencer||Banquet Frozen Foods||Chevrolet||65||$6,490||Running||0||76|
|31||17||75||Joe Ruttman||Dinner Bell Foods||Oldsmobile||64||$6,350||Running||0||70|
|32||22||4||Hershel McGriff||U.S. Bank||Pontiac||61||$3,675||Accident||0||67|
|33||31||0||Scott Gaylord||Oliver Manufacturing||Oldsmobile||61||$3,625||Running||0||64|
|35||24||12||Hut Stricklin||Raybestos Brakes||Buick||59||$5,575||Running||0||58|
|36||18||44||Irv Hoerr||Bay Area Olds||Oldsmobile||58||$3,565||Rear End||0||55|
|37||37||55||Ted Musgrave||U.S. Racing||Pontiac||58||$3,795||Running||0||52|
|39||43||91||Robert Sprague||Area Glass & Mirror||Ford||54||$3,500||Engine||1||51|
|40||42||23||Mike Chase||Freymiller Trucking||Ford||53||$3,475||Transmission||0||43|
|43||36||9||R.K. Smith||Midgley Racing||Pontiac||2||$3,475||Engine||0||34|