DARLINGTON, S.C. -- It seems Davey Allison has see enough rain fall in his life this season. But yesterday, there was more, literally.
On a day when he had a chance to win a million bucks, when his Ford Thunderbird was running strong, when it seemed he might pull off the biggest bonus payday since Bill Elliott collected the Winston Million in 1985, rain washed out the final 78 laps of the Mountain Dew Southern 500 and allowed Darrell Waltrip to make history of another kind.
The Winston Million is paid to a driver who can win three of the Big Four Winston Cup races -- Daytona 500, Winston 500, Coca Cola 600 and the Southern 500 -- in a single season.
Yesterday, thanks to the rains that came on lap 289, Darrell Waltrip became only the fifth driver in NASCAR's 43-year history to win all four of those races in a career.
He averaged 129.114 mph in his Western Auto Chevrolet and collected $66,030 in the process, as 70,000 race fans looked on.
It was pure delight for Waltrip, who has finished second here three times and had this race won at least two other times, before the track known as "The Lady in Black" reached out and collected him in crashes.
Allison, of course, knows about crashes. But yesterday, he ran strong, until using up his tires in an attempt to keep challenger Harry Gant a lap down shortly after the halfway point of this 367-lap race. When Mark Martin later challenged for the lead, Allison found his tires couldn't hold off the challenge and was forced to make an early pit stop on lap 285 -- four laps before the rains came.
Waltrip, whose car wasn't strong enough to challenge for the lead, was planning a different strategy. He was watching the threatening skies and stretching his fuel mileage to the limit.
When rain finally fell, it was Waltrip in first, followed by MartinElliott, Brett Bodine and Allison.
And that's the way this race ended when NASCAR officials called the race after a 1 hour, 52 minute delay at 6:12 p.m.
"I'm glad to win my first Southern 500," Waltrip said. "I'm also sorry Davey didn't win the Million."
Allison, who had won the Daytona 500 and the Winston 500, had only to win here yesterday to collect the prize.
Instead, Waltrip, 45, joins Richard Petty, David Pearson, Buddy Baker and Bobby Allison in the select club of Big Four winners.
"When you're on the back side of your career, with maybe only five more Southern 500s to run, you realize you wouldn't feel very good about all those other victories if you didn't get the big ones," said Waltrip, a three-time Winston Cup champion. "It took me 17 years to win the Daytona 500 and 19 years to win the Southern 500. But, hey, it took me 18 years to have my first daughter and 22 years to have my second. I'm diligent, but I'm slow."
The victory is number 84 in Waltrip's career, tying him for third on the all-time winner's list with Bobby Allison. Petty, with 200 wins, and Pearson, with 106, are one-two.
Despite the loss, Allison did not look or sound like a loser yesterday. He felt good about the way his team ran and felt encouraged about his chances in the Winston Cup point race. Elliott currently holds a 119-point advantage with eight races left in the season.
"Is this a heartbreaker?" Allison repeated. "Are you kidding? I've never had a top-five finish in the Southern 500 before today. I feel good. The race car's still in one piece and I haven't hit the wall. I'm happy. We know we did our best, because there's nothing we could do to change the weather -- nothing we could do to change other people's strategy. So no complaints. If we keep going like this, I think things are going to turn around and go our way."
Darrell Waltrip was having similar thoughts yesterday. He's seventh in the points race and basically out of the running for the championship this season. But yesterday's victory, coupled with last week's win at Bristol and his July win at Pocono, had him dreaming about the future.
"This is very gratifying at my age," he said. "But I need another championship and I want to win 100 races before I'm through. I've worked real hard to put this team, my team, together and I'm having the best time in my whole career. I feel like I'm on the verge of something really special with this team."
1. (5) Darrell Waltrip, Chevrolet Lumina, 298, $66,030, 129.114. 2. (26) Mark Martin, Ford Thunderbird, 298, $41,355. 3. (4) Bill Elliott, Ford Thunderbird, 298, $32,620. 4. (8) Brett Bodine, Ford Thunderbird, 298, $23,260. 5. (6) Davey Allison, Ford Thunderbird,298, $38,845. 6. (17) Dale Jarrett, Chevrolet Lumina, $19,055. 7. (29) Kyle Petty, Pontiac Grand Prix, 298, $16,310. 8. (9) Alan Kulwicki, Ford Thunderbird, 298, $17,890. 9. (21) Rusty Wallace, Pontiac Grand Prix, 298, $17,060. 10. (18) Ricky Rudd, Chevrolet Lumina, 297, $18,470.