Talledega's big question: Why hasn't anyone driven a losing Ford -- lately?

April 30, 1992|By Tom Higgins | Tom Higgins,Knight-Ridder News Service

TALLEDEGA, Ala. -- Some stock car racing fans love it. Others hate it.

Either way, there has been a Ford in their future for all eight NASCAR Winston Cup Series races this season.

And for the last four of last season.

That's 12 straight victories and what seems to be a dominant streak.

When will it end? How about at Talladega, where qualifying was to begin today for Sunday's Winston 500 at the 2.66-mile superspeedway.

Ford's streak -- lavish glory on it or lambast it -- is rich spicing for the second of the Big Four races in 1992.

Geoff Bodine began the drive last October when he won the Mello Yello 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Davey Allison then added two wins and took the first of the Grand Slam races counting toward the Winston Million bonus, the '92 season-opening Daytona 500.

Allison, who on Sunday could go two-thirds of the way to the $1 million prize for winning three of the four major races in a season, has contributed four victories overall to the Ford string. Bill Elliott matched that total by sweeping all the March Winston Cup events.

Alan Kulwicki and Mark Martin also have won in the recent Thunderbirds-of-a-feather-fly-together thwarting of rival General Motors drivers and cars.

Ford followers are joyful after listening to barbs from General Motors-loving friends about Chevrolet winning the NASCAR Manufacturers' Championship each of the past nine seasons.

Many Ford foes are furious, charging that the T-bird teams must be cheating to have attained such supremacy in this supposed period of parity. And they think NASCAR officials are a party to it.

Darrell Waltrip, a three-time Winston Cup champion who is fifth on the all-time victory list with 81 wins, has the perception to see all this and dismiss -- while understanding -- the disenchantment of those who feel "NASCAR loves Ford best."

"Give the Ford teams credit," Waltrip said at Martinsville, Va., last weekend, where he lifted Chevy fans' hope by taking the pole. "They did their homework in the offseason and they've had us down.

"But we're coming back. I've told my crew guys all along to ignore the Ford vs. Chevy sniping and get our car as right as it can be. Then, if we're still getting beat, we'll start complaining."

Fans who believe these allegations either aren't aware of NASCAR's history or haven't been paying attention.

* Just last season, GM cars won the first nine races before Allison stopped the streak by taking the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

* In 1987, Dale Earnhardt won six of the first eight en route to an 11-victory season -- in a Chevrolet.

* The record for consecutive victories by a manufacturer in NASCAR's modern era, which began in 1972, is 33 straight -- by GM cars over the 1982-83 seasons.

*--Except for a fortuitous caution flag that left Elliott's mediocre-that-day Ford in a lap all alone late in the Motorcraft 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March, Harry Gant would have won the race and Earnhardt would have finished second. Gant drives an Olds; Earnhardt still drives a Chevy.

* The strongest car at the Lap 350 mark of the Valleydale 500 at Bristol (Tenn.) Raceway in early April was Waltrip's Chevy. But he had the misfortune of being behind the lapped Ford of Allison when its oil line broke. Waltrip was swept into the ensuing crash -- and out of contention. Kulwicki won to continue the Ford streak.

* With the slightest of nudges, usually acceptable on a short track like North Wilkesboro Speedway, Pontiac's Rusty Wallace might have passed Allison near the finish to win the First Union 400. However, leader Allison was driving with injured ribs from the Bristol wreck and Wallace said he couldn't chance causing Allison to hit the wall and hurt himself again. The Ford streak continued.

* After Kulwicki's strong Ford was forced from the lead by a mechanical failure just last Sunday in the Hanes 500 at Martinsville Speedway, the strongest of the remaining cars were the Chevys of Earnhardt and Waltrip. However, Waltrip lost a lap in the pits because of a tire-changing problem. And Earnhardt broke an axle while leading with 22 miles left, seeing what appeared a certain victory go instead to Martin, who put Ford's streak at a dozen.

Perhaps the most telling quote so far came from Elliott after the Motorcraft 500: "The horseshoe fell out of somebody else's car and fell into mine."

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