NASCAR's many victors make every race an adventure

April 26, 1991|By Tom Higgins | Tom Higgins,Charlotte Observer

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Lost amid all the crashing and controversy at North Wilkesboro Speedway last Sunday was an interesting NASCAR Winston Cup Series record:

In becoming the seventh winner in as many races this year, Darrell Waltrip helped improve the "varying victor" mark for the sport's modern era, which began in 1972. The 1984 and '86 tours had six-for-six starts in which different competitors got the checkered flag.

And Waltrip's win tied the all-time record for disparate drivers visiting Victory Lane at the opening of a season. It first happened in 1963-64, when the NASCAR big-time schedule overlapped the New Year.

Almost three decades ago the winners were Ned Jarrett, Fireball Roberts, Wendell Scott, Richard Petty, Dan Gurney, Junior Johnson and Bobby Isaac. The latter two scored in twin 100-mile Daytona 500 qualifying races, which then counted in the point standings. Petty snapped the streak by winning the 500.

The all-time record for different winners at any point in a season is 13, achieved twice in 1961. The modern mark is 11, set in '85.

Preceding Waltrip in triumph this year have been Ernie Irvan, Dale Earnhardt, Kyle Petty, Ken Schrader, Ricky Rudd and Rusty Wallace.

The list of drivers capable of stretching the winner's streak to eight is lengthy, headed by Geoff Bodine, who swept both Winston Cup races here in 1990 at the .526-mile track, where qualifying began today.

If the pattern of the past two races continues, the winner will have to escape lots of wrecks.

The events at Bristol (Tenn.) Raceway and North Wilkesboro Speedway, tight short tracks like Martinsville, produced a combined 36 caution flags. Almost matching the mashed sheet metal were the flared tempers.

Winston Cup director Dick Beaty, while acknowledging incidental contact is inevitable at the flat Martinsville layout, said that careless, rough driving in Sunday's 263-mile race won't be tolerated.

"The drivers are going to behave or they're going to park," Beaty said. "I met with about 10 of them immediately after the race at North Wilkesboro. I had a long talk on Monday with Geoff Bodine [who was forced to park last Sunday after a tangle with Davey Allison]. About 10 more drivers will be part of a little congregation meeting Friday morning and I'll do all the talking. They better do the listening."

Beaty scotched reports that Bodine is to be fined. "Parking him Sunday cost enough money," he said.

* Driver Sterling Marlin was released Thursday from the Vanderbilt Burn Center in Nashville, where he had been undergoing treatment for second-degree burns he suffered in a crash at Bristol.

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