With the race nearing the finish, Darrell Waltrip was looking for some sort of break Sunday in the Motorcraft 500 NASCAR stock car race at Hampton, Ga.
And when a late caution flag was raised, Waltrip’s pit crew was ready to take advantage, enabling the Daytona 500 winner to outrun Dale Earnhardt over the last nine laps to win for the second time in three starts this season.
“I needed that last caution to get the best set of tires I had all day,” Waltrip said. “Then we got a fantastic pit stop there at the end. That’s what we had to have.”
Waltrip, a three-time Winston Cup champion, earned the 75th victory of his career, beating Earnhardt by 0.06 seconds in a battle of Chevrolet Monte Carlos.
It appeared that Earnhardt, who has not won in 12 races, would break the streak when Geoff Bodine brought out the sixth and final caution flag 15 laps from the finish at Atlanta International Raceway.
Bodine was running third when he blew a tire heading into turn four on lap 313 and skidded sideways. Rick Wilson ran into Bodine’s car and sent it spinning to the top of the banking and into the wall. Neither driver was injured.
Earnhardt and Waltrip went to the pits quickly, and NASCAR rookie Dick Trickle, the only other driver on the lead lap, remained on the 1.5-mile oval and took the lead.
Waltrip just edged Earnhardt out of the pits to take second place, and eventually overcame Trickle to win the race and the $63,500 first-place prize. Waltrip averaged 139.864 m.p.h.
During the race, Robert Calicutt of Richard Petty’s crew, suffered burns over 50% of his body in a pit fire. He was reported in stable but guarded condition in Georgia Baptist Hospital at Atlanta.
Darrell Gwynn, Ed McCulloch and Darrell Alderman posted victories in the Motorcraft Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla.
Gwynn defeated Eddie Hill in the top fuel division, and McCulloch beat Bruce Larson, who was disqualified for crossing the center line during his final run, in the funny car competition. In pro stock racing, Alderman defeated Frank Iaconio.