The greatest events in NASCAR history can usually find their way onto columns fast. They are moments of greatness, superiority, luck, and above all talent. They define the sport, they make up the foundation for the competition that the sport is built on.
Unfortunately, the other moments never make it onto columns and lists. No, these aren’t the good, the great, or the awesome moments. Yes, they are the dumbest moments. The total lack of judgment, and the stupidity that certain situations have produced. The brainless and above all wacky moments that most drivers tend to forget fast. And to celebrate NASCAR’s growing success, I’ve come up with a list entitled: The Ten Stupidest Moments in Winston Cup History.
Now, before you start reading, keep in mind these are all driver-only events. NASCAR’s decision to start this year’s The Winston in the rain, or their tearing down Rusty Wallace’s engine and placing it piece by piece in a little area for other competitors to take a look-see after his pole winning run at Sears Point last year won’t make it. What will make it? Well, just take a look down below.
10. Mike (Tyson) Waltrip’s Punches-
Michael Waltrip, 1995 Miller Genuine Draft 400, Michigan. Mikey was set battling for the 11th position with Lake Speed late in the event. While trying to pass Speed, he got blocked, and run into the wall. Mikey’s temper overcame his logical sense, and following the race, he cut Speed off on pit road, then blocked him from moving.
Michael Waltrip got out, and undid Speed’s window net. Then, he punched Speed twice in the head. Problem: Speed still had his helmet on. Not only did Waltrip walk away with very sore knuckles, but he left with a $10,000 fine. $5k a punch. Next time Mikey, make sure they take off their helmet before you throw $5k around.
9. Senseless Schrader-
Ken Schrader, 1990 Heinz Southern 500, Darlington. After being spun early in the event by Morgan Shepherd, Schrader spent a considerable amount of time behind the wall getting repairs done to his car. After his crew spent countless minutes working on his car, they sent Schrader back out onto the race track, only to watch him wreck again. This time however, the incident was no accident.
After Schrader pulled back onto the race track, he took a right hand dive into Shepherd’s car, at full speed. Schrader knocked his car hard into the wall also, and probably got more sense knocked into him then out. Both driver’s had their day cut short, all because Kenny spent too much time watching Days of Thunder the night before.
8. Days of Daytona – Sacks, Petty, Cope-Pepsi 400, Daytona, 1990.
Sacks had started on the pole for the event, but NASCAR officials discovered an intake manifold that did not meet their specs, and took it away from Sacks. Following the green flag, Sacks quickly faded to seventh, where he found himself in a 3-wide battle with Petty and Cope.
The three all rubbed furiously together for half a lap before they couldn’t go any longer. Sacks and Petty rubbed twice in the tri-oval, before both lost control and slid into Cope. With the three-car spin, just about every car behind them was approaching a roadblock. 24 cars in all wrecked, the 2nd biggest wreck in Daytona history. Following the wreck, Geoff Bodine summed up the whole situation; “They saw the damn movie.” He was alluding to the fact that Days of Thunder had just been released, and we all know what the drivers did on that movie.
7. Sailing in the Grass – Skinner, Stewart-DieHard 500, Talladega, 1999.
Stewart was in his rookie season, and had all ready proven himself to be a contender to win week in, week out. The story was no different at Talladega, as he took the lead early and held it firmly. However, Stewart lost the lead near lap 50, and was looking to get it back.
As he moved up alongside Mike Skinner for second, the two touched. Skinner and Stewart, who were exiting turn two, all of a sudden found themselves driving straight to the infield. Skinner kept blocking Stewart’s Pontiac, and they went into the grass at full-speed. The fact that it had rained hard the morning before the race didn’t help matters, and Skinner lost control of his car in the wet grass. He spun back onto the track and took out several of the front-runners.
Following the wreck, the stupidity didn’t stop. Safety crews that towed Skinner’s car back to the garage found they couldn’t unhook the 31’s hood from the tow truck. So a safety worker jumped on Skinner’s hood, bending the aero-efficient nose badly. Larry McReynolds, Skinner’s crew chief, also lost his sense, when he jerked the safety official off fiercely, and nearly beat the man senseless. Larry Mac, Skinner, and Stewart all went to the “big house”, the NASCAR trailer, after the race. But all three etched themselves in NASCAR brainless history for good.
6. Graveyard Shift-J.T. Putney, Tiny Lund-Fonda Speedway, 1966-
Putney had started second, and quickly jumped to the front, leading the first 31 laps. However, on lap 32 he spun off of turn two. The tiny 1/2-mile dirt track didn’t have an outside retaining wall on the turns, so he spun over the banking. Putney regathered his car into control on a service road that led from the Erie Canal to the backstretch. Oddly enough, the road went through a graveyard, which is where Putney drove through before returning to the track. But by returning to the track, he drove straight in the path of Tiny Lund, who t-boned Putney, and also took out Bobby Allison and Lyle Stetler. Putney not only took out four cars in his bonehead maneuver, but he was KO’d by a punch from Lund. Lund had approached Putney following the incident in the garage area, and knocked Putney unconscious with a right-cut to Putney’s jaw. NASCAR officials fined Lund $100.
5. Bristol Bumpin’: Dale Earnhardt-Goody’s 500, Bristol, 1995.
Dale had started near the front, and battled Rusty Wallace for a top ten spot when he nudged Wallace’s rear bumper, spinning Russell into the wall. NASCAR disliked the move, and sent Dale to the back of the pack. Dale obliged by spinning Lake Speed into the wall later in the race.
After Derrike Cope missed a shift on a restart, Dale rear-ended Cope badly, enough to nearly bust Dale’s radiator. But, with all this, Dale somehow found himself in second on the white-flag lap. Leader Terry Labonte was stuck in lapped traffic, and instead of passing Terry, he spun him. Labonte gassed his Chevy, and slid across the finish line doing a 180. Terry then hit the wall head-on, but took the checkers. After the race was over, Dale didn’t get any fines from NASCAR, but he did get a water bottle thrown at his nose by Rusty Wallace.
4. Demolition Richmond: Dale Earnhardt-Miller High Life 400, Richmond, 1986.
Dale again put himself in a high position, this time while battling Darrell Waltrip for the lead with three to go at the old Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway. As Darrell made a move to the inside of Dale off turn two, he started to get most of his car clear of Earnhardt, except the rear bumper.
That was all Dale needed, as he tagged Darrell Waltrip’s right rear quarter panel, sending Darrell Waltrip head on into the wall. Dale wrecked, also, as did the next three cars in line. Kyle Petty, who was motoring along in fifth before the brawl, snaked his way through the wreck, and found himself in first. It was Petty’s first career win, in one of the most bizarre endings to any Winston Cup race.
3. Tony the Temper: Stewart, Irwin-NAPA Auto Care 500, Martinsville, 1999.
Stewart was in the top-five for most of the first half of the race, and showed himself capable of possibly winning. While racing around the tight confines of Martinsville, he found himself stuck behind the lapped car of Kenny Irwin. Instead of waiting several laps to pass, he simply spun Irwin out.
A few laps later after a restart, Irwin returned the favor to Stewart, spinning him out. It was only beginning. Stewart then tried a little later to spin Irwin, but failed to accomplish his goal. As Stewart was ahead of Irwin entering turn one, Kenny never let off, and spun Stewart hard into the outside wall. Tony’s day was done, but his actions weren’t.
He waited for Irwin to pass by his wrecked car, where he jumped into the open left side window area, and punched Irwin twice. He also through his foot guards at him. $10,000 was levied against Stewart, and Tony was just beginning his temperamental career.
2. Swervin’ Irvan: Ernie Irvan, Ken Schrader-TranSouth 500, Darlington, 1990.
1990 had three stupid moments, this one the highest and most devastating of them all. Irvan had lost several laps in the pits while his crew was placing an internal problem on his #4 Chevy. After he got out of the pits, Ernie found himself ten laps down. His owner Larry McClure instructed Ernie to race as hard as he could, so his driver did so.
Following a restart, leader Ken Schrader and Irvan raced side-by-side for several laps. The fun stopped soon thereafter. Coming out of turn two, Irvan’s car broke loose, and he tagged Schrader’s Chevy. Both cars spun, and the frontstretch became a junkyard.
Several cars wrecked, including Neil Bonnett. Bonnett’s Ford hit hard head-on into the wall, and Bonnett was knocked out. The effects of being unconscious were bad, he suffered a long period of amnesia. It all but ended his driving career.
The number one moment has now arrived. This moment was very controversial in its time, and may still have some effects lingering still. While the two drivers involved have made up, the fans may not have.
Now, before you scroll down to see what it was, I do want to say there were many moments that didn’t get put in here that could have. Such as Cale Yarborough’s bonehead move thinking the race was over in 1984 during the Pepsi Firecracker 400, and coming down pit road. He lost second place in the process, but made it back on the track to finish third. Now, I’m sure a lot of people think I’ve unfairly biased myself against everyone by not putting Mark Martin’s 1994 BGN Bristol bonker in this list.
I was going to, if it wasn’t BGN. If you look back at the first column, you’ll see “Winston Cup” written out. I hope that ends the argument. Now, for more bonehead moves, Jimmy Spencer spinning Ken Schrader under yellow at North Wilkesboro, Joe Nemechek running full-speed into Steve Park at Charlotte in turn one, taking out four cars. LeeRoy Yarbrough pitting with two to go thinking his crew ordered him to pit in the Daytona 500, giving the win to dumbfounded Cale Yarborough. Moments like that, however, didn’t make the top-ten.
Now, there’s one moment many people may think I am talking about as #1 that I’m not. No, the 1999 Goody’s Headache Powder 500 at Bristol, with Earnhardt’s spinning Terry Labonte didn’t make the list. Why did Dale’s ’95 make it? Because Dale was even more blatant in his attempts to wreck. Too many people say Dale didn’t mean to wreck Terry for it to be completely legit in ’99, but it was easy to tell his ’95 one was. Now for that moment you’ve been waiting for…the number one stupidest move in Winston Cup history…
1. Tide Slide-Rusty Wallace, Darrell Waltrip-The Winston-Charlotte, 1989.
Darrell Waltrip had dominated the all-star event, and was getting close to winning the coveted first place prize of $200,000. But coming out of turn four towards the white flag, Rusty Wallace sneaked his way up to DW’s rear bumper. Russell, in a move he himself now says was pretty stupid, blatantly and obviously voluntarily ran into Waltrip hard enough to spin the three-time champ out.
The caution flew before Rusty made it to the line, so they restarted the race with one to go. DW and company argued that since they restarted from the last full lap, he should be put up front. NASCAR said no, DW had to start at the rear. He stormed up to eighth, but had too little time to deal with. Rusty ran to the checkers, then got a barrage of chicken bones, beer cans, and extended middle fingers shown his way.
As Wallace drove through the garage area to victory lane, the two crews scuffled, setting off a wild fight with at least 25 people involved. Waltrip stormed out of his car angrily, and when the media shoved their mikes in Darrell Waltrip’s face, he uttered the infamous “I hope he chokes on that 200 grand” line.
Wallace lost several fans that day, while Darrell, once the most hated driver on the circuit, gained several. It was a turning point in Darrell Waltrip’s career, as he would win many fans, something Darrell Waltrip has been proud about ever since. Rusty has had a hard time gaining back all the fans he lost that May Day in 1989, but he’s got a good number of them anyway.
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