Day 1: Gant leads pack on 20th charity ride
Our daily diary starts with a chat with the popular former Cup driver
Kyle Petty Charity Ride route announced for its 23rd annual trek
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America, one of the most successful and popular charity rides in the country, today announced the route for its 23rd annual motorcycle trek. For the first time in almost a decade, the Ride led by former NASCAR driver and NBC Sports racing analyst Kyle Petty, will travel across the Pacific Northwest. With Manheim, North America's leading provider of used vehicle services, as returning presenting sponsor, the Ride will leave Portland, Oregon, on May 13 and arrive in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on May 19, covering eight states in seven days. Petty will lead 200 bikers on the weeklong, 2,400-mile route to raise funds and awareness for Victory Junction - a camp dedicated to providing life-changing camping experiences for children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses. What started out as Petty and a small group of friends riding together for fun in 1995, has grown into one of the most successful and popular charity rides in the country. This year, more than 20 first-time riders will join the dedicated team of men and women riding for the cause, along with new sponsors and a continued sense of passion. "It's pretty straightforward: every single mile we ride is for one cause, and that is to send chronically ill children to camp at Victory Junction at no cost to their families," said Petty. "The Ride is an enriching experience for everyone involved, and this year we'll be riding through some spectacular parts of the country like Mount Rushmore, and for the very first time the Columbia River Gorge." The Ride will see many of our country's historic landmarks including Yellowstone and Badlands National Parks; Bighorn National Forest; and the iconic Harley-Davidson Museum, the birthplace of the all-American motorcycle manufacturing company. Emblematic of the American open road, riders will also take in roadside attractions, including the world's largest ball of twine rolled by one man in Darwin, Minnesota. Fans are encouraged to come support the cause and greet riders at one of the Ride's seven overnight stops or daily pit stops. Spectators along the route may also purchase memorabilia or contribute to the Ride's "Small Change. Big Impact." program, which accepts donations at each stop. 23rd Anniversary Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America Schedule: (Information about scheduled pit stops can be found on the Ride's Facebook page.) Day 1, Saturday, May 13 - Portland, Oregon to Walla Walla, Washington Day 2, Sunday, May 14 - Walla Walla, Washington to Missoula, Montana Day 3, Monday, May 15 - Missoula, Montana to Cody, Wyoming Day 4, Tuesday, May 16 - Cody, Wyoming to Deadwood, South Dakota Day 5, Wednesday, May 17 - Deadwood, South Dakota to Mitchell, South Dakota Day 6, Thursday, May 18 - Mitchell, South Dakota to Minneapolis, Minnesota Day 7, Friday, May 19 - Minneapolis, Minnesota to Milwaukee, Wisconsin As a result of the Ride, 7,985 children have attended Victory Junction at no cost to their families. Last year alone, the Ride raised more than $1 million, sending 100 children to camp. Victory Junction has served as the Ride's primary beneficiary since its establishment by Petty and his family in 2004 in honor of his late son, Adam. This year's Ride will feature several celebrity riders, including: NASCAR Hall of Famer and seven-time champion Richard Petty NASCAR legends Harry Gant , Hershel McGriff and Donnie Allison Former NFL great and ESPN's 2016 Coaches Poll greatest college football player of all time, Herschel Walker Heisman Trophy winner (1980) and Super Bowl champion (XXII) George Rogers NBC Sports NASCAR personalities Rick Allen and Rutledge Wood Harley-Davidson Museum president, Bill Davidson, who comes from a long list of Harley-Davidson greats starting with his great grandfather who founded the company. "As we travel to new parts of our country - or ones we haven't seen in a while - the Ride brings with it a passion for sharing the great work of Victory Junction and a comradery that can't be matched. That's what makes it one of the most popular motorcycle rides in the country," said Kyle's father Richard Petty. The 2017 Ride is made possible by presenting sponsor Manheim, as well as Coca-Cola, Harley-Davidson Motor Company, FCA Fleet, Racing Electronics, WinCraft Racing, FLUIDYNE Racing Products, Petty Family Foundation, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Headbands of Hope, Piedmont Moving Systems, ArticBlu, Select-A-Vision and Goody's. "Giving back to the community is a core value of Manheim, so we're thrilled once again to be supporting Victory Junction and the children who camp there," said Janet Barnard, president, Cox Automotive Inventory Solutions. "Our teams are excited to welcome the Ride at two of our operating locations, Manheim Portland and Manheim Minneapolis, and offering their local support to this worthwhile cause." To keep up with Petty and the riders live, follow along on social media: Facebook: www.facebook.com/kpcharityride and www.facebook.com/kylepetty45 Instagram: www.instagram.com/kpcharityride and www.instagram.com/kylepetty Twitter: www.twitter.com/kpcharityride and www.twitter.com/kylepetty For more information about the 23rd Annual Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America or to make a donation, please visit www.kylepettycharityride.com .
Cain on Davey Allison's Hall of Fame nomination: 'It's time'
BUY TICKETS: See the races in Las Vegas MORE: Meet the 2018 Hall of Fame nominees "It's time." Social media users did not mince words with Wednesday's announcement that the late and great Davey Allison has been nominated for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It was a similar enthusiasm and fondness bestowed upon Allison from fans every time he climbed into a stock car. The oldest son of NASCAR legend and Hall of Famer Bobby Allison was a bona fide celebrity in the sport's earlier glory days -- before Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook. Before billion-dollar television deals. Before personal chefs and luxury motorhomes were standard issue. Allison, who died in a helicopter crash at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993 at the age of 32, is a highly-achieved descendent of the "Alabama Gang" -- a group of drivers hailing from Hueytown, Ala., so talented that the very thought they were entered in a race stirred an intense rivalry among competitors. It feels fitting that Allison's addition to the 20-person list of NASCAR Hall of Fame nominees also includes his former team owner Robert Yates and a member of the original Alabama Gang, Red Farmer. PHOTOS: More from NASCAR Hall's five newest nominees Newer NASCAR fans have certainly heard about Allison's talent -- his 1992 Daytona 500 victory, his run at that season's championship -- the "old school" group as they like to be referred to. It was a time of "simpler" days in the sport, though intensely competitive. And Allison, in particular, bridged a gap between the older fans who grew up cheering on his father, Bobby, and a new group ready to root for Allison in a changing of the guard. Allison represented everything competition was supposed to be about -- eager to go door-to-door with greats representing multiple generations such as Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Harry Gant . And of course, greats like his dad, Bobby, who he finished second to in the 1988 Daytona 500, one of the most memorable race outcomes in NASCAR history. At 50, Bobby Allison became the event's oldest winner. At 26, his son firmly established himself as the next generation of raw talent and Allison can-do. Four years later, Davey Allison was celebrating in Daytona 500 Victory Lane himself. It was a big moment kicking off the best full season of his career, although the title run ultimately ended in a collision in the Atlanta season finale, giving the season trophy to Alan Kulwicki. Allison had led the standings most of the season and into the last race. But he was such a fierce competitor: Losing out on the trophy in November only made the other drivers more fearful in February, certain of the extra motivation that would be steering Yates' fast and famous No. 28 Texaco Ford. Allison won multiple races every full year of competition, the 1987 Rookie of the Year title and 14 pole positions. One of the most amazing statistics is that he won one Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race for every 10 starts he made -- 19 total in 191 races. The numbers are so jaw-dropping both Allison's fans and those fans of his rivals wonder what kind of numbers he would have posted if he had had a full career. No need to wonder, though. His work is being recognized as it should. Allison is rightfully nominated for consideration into the NASCAR Hall of Fame and will be a serious candidate come decision time in May. "OH. MY. WORD!" Allison's widow, Liz, posted on Facebook. "Beyond excited and so very grateful to those who voted for Davey. He would be so honored to have made this list and to be a nominee along with all of the nominees. No words to describe the emotions right now. So darn proud for him!!" As are so many.
NASCAR Hall of Fame unveils new lineup of iconic cars
RELATED: More on the Hall of Fame " Fan Appreciation Day CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- For just the third time since the NASCAR Hall of Fame first opened its doors in 2010, race fans will see a new Glory Road exhibit encircling the Great Hall in the museum's main level. Glory Road "ICONS" features 18 cars representing some of NASCAR's most recognizable vehicles as well as its legendary drivers. The exhibit will officially open to the public Jan. 7. Friday, Hall officials held an unveiling for members of the media and various local dignitaries. Seventeen of the vehicles were on display when the hour-long event got underway. The wraps on the 18th, the No. 28 Ford Thunderbird piloted by Davey Allison for Ranier-Lundy Racing, were removed during the program. Among those in attendance for the unveiling were Allison's father, Bobby Allison, the 1983 series champion and winner of 84 races, Davey's son Robbie Allison, Joey Knuckles (Allison's crew chief for 19 races in 1987), Larry McReynolds (Allison's crew chief at Robert Yates Racing from '91-93) and Lorin Ranier, son of team owner Harry Ranier. "I notice in this general area Alabama is represented really well," Robbie Allison said, noting his father's car sits between those of his grandfather and fellow Alabama Gang driver Neil Bonnett. "We're doing pretty well I think. "When I look at this car, one thing that stands out is I always see the snippet online of him driving down pit road at Talladega and the whole crew is on top of the car. ... I see it all the time. All the good times that he and his team shared and our family was able to share through racing." Davey Allison scored his first NASCAR win in the top series in '87 at Talladega Superspeedway . He would add 18 more victories, including two more at the 2.66-mile Talladega track, before his death in 1993. Bobby Allison's racing career had ended in 1988 when his Buick slammed into the wall and was then struck by another race car on the first lap of a race at Pocono Raceway . Clifford Allison, Davey's brother, was killed in a crash during practice in 1992 at Michigan International Speedway . "Something that my granddad says to me all the time is that racing has taken a lot away from us but it's also given us an awful lot at the same time,” Robbie Allison said. "There are so many good memories ... "The words that everybody that knew (my dad) on and off the track, determination, hard work, obsession even, always willing to put in that extra effort to be better every day. ... He was definitely as good of a father as he was a racer.” McReynolds, now a NASCAR on FOX analyst, said Allison "actually made my job pretty easy because … I think a lot of it was the way Bobby brought him up through the racing ranks he knew what was going on with that race car and he had a pretty good idea what we needed to do to make it better. ... "He obviously did a phenomenal job in that race car but he did a really unbelievable job outside the race car. He loved his race fans." The 18 cars featured on the new Glory Road "ICONS" exhibit span the history of NASCAR, from the 1952 Hudson Hornet driven by Marshall Teague -- a dominant combination in the sport's formative years -- to the 2015 Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota Camry that carried Kyle Busch to the series championship. Other entries in the exhibit include: • 1957 Ford Fairlane driven by Fireball Roberts • 1964 Plymouth Belvedere of Richard Petty • 1966 Ford Galaxie owned and driven by Wendell Scott • 1966 Dodge Charger fielded by Cotton Owens and driven by David Pearson • 1939 Chevrolet Coupe piloted by Richie Evans in 1970-71 • 1976 Chevrolet Monte Carlo driven by Darrell Waltrip • 1978 Ford Thunderbird driven by Bobby Allison • 1982 Oldsmobile Omega driven by Sam Ard • 1989 Ford Thunderbird driven by Neil Bonnett • 1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass driven by Harry Gant • 1992 Ford Thunderbird driven by Bill Elliott • 1995 Chevrolet Silverado driven by Mike Skinner • 1999 Chevrolet Monte Carlo driven by Dale Earnhardt • 2005 Chevrolet Monte Carlo driven by Jeff Gordon • 2013 Chevrolet SS driven by Jimmie Johnson Winston Kelley, executive director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, said his group began with a notebook of "100 to 120 cars" that had to be trimmed considerably before beginning the process of selecting and obtaining the final 18. "If I handed you that notebook you would probably agree that 80-90 are iconic cars," Kelley said. "There are others that are noteworthy of acknowledging at some point in time, but would it pass the sticker test ... would you say 'yeah that's iconic?' " As with previous Glory Road exhibits, the "ICONS" exhibit will remain on display for three years. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Johnson wins NMPA Richard Petty Driver of the Year
DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Jimmie Johnson , who won a record-tying seventh NASCAR championship this past season, has been voted the winner of the 2016 Richard Petty Driver of the Year Award presented by the National Motorsports Press Association. Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports , was named on 62 percent of the ballots cast for the award of the NMPA membership. Others receiving votes were Carl Edwards ( Joe Gibbs Racing ), Martin Truex Jr . ( Furniture Row Racing ), Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart ( Stewart-Haas Racing ) and Joey Logano ( Team Penske ). Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Johnson are the only NASCAR drivers to win seven titles in what is now known as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series . The announcement was made during the NMPA's annual Convention and Awards Dinner held in Concord, North Carolina. It marks the seventh time Johnson, 41, has received the Driver of the Year honor. He also won the award in 2004, '06, '07, '09, '10, and '13. Johnson won five races in 2016, including the season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway that clinched his seventh championship. He ended the year with 11 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes in 36 races. The award is named in honor of Petty, NASCAR's win leader in its top series with 200 victories. It has been presented annually by the NMPA since 1969. Twenty-three different drivers have won the award since its inception. Other awards: Veteran motorsports journalist Al Pearce was named the 2016 recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association's Pocono Spirit Award. Pearce raised more than $13,000 through the auction of a racing helmet bearing the signatures of the 20 living World Driving Champions as well as those of Phil Hill and Sir Jack Brabham prior their passing. Proceeds from the project, which took nearly four years to complete, went to the Victory Junction Gang Camp, the Kyle Petty Charity Ride, the Jimmie Johnson Foundation and the Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation. ... Veteran public relations representative Dave Ferroni was named the 2016 recipient of the Ken Patterson Helping Others Award. Ferroni has been involved in various forms of auto racing for more than 30 years. His company, DMF Communications, currently handles public relations for Furniture Row Racing and driver Martin Truex Jr . in NASCAR's premier series. ... ESPN.com motorsports writer Bob Pockrass was named the recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association's Joe Littlejohn Award for 2016. The award is named after the former track owner from Spartanburg, South Carolina, and is presented annually by the NMPA in recognition for outstanding service to the organization. Pockrass recently completed his eighth year as secretary treasurer for the NMPA. Richard Petty Driver of the Year Determined by vote of the membership, the Richard Petty Driver of the Year award has been presented annually since 1969 to recognize the season's most outstanding driver. It is named in honor of the seven-time NASCAR premier series champion: 2016, Jimmie Johnson ; 2015, Kyle Busch ; 2014, Kevin Harvick ; 2013, Jimmie Johnson ; 2012, Brad Keselowski ; 2011, Tony Stewart ; 2010, Jimmie Johnson ; 2009, Jimmie Johnson ; 2008, Carl Edwards ; 2007, Jimmie Johnson ; 2006, Jimmie Johnson ; 2005, Tony Stewart ; 2004, Jimmie Johnson ; 2003, Ryan Newman ; 2002, Tony Stewart ; 2001, Kevin Harvick ; 2000, Bobby Labonte ; 1999, Dale Jarrett; 1998, Jeff Gordon ; 1997, Dale Jarrett; 1996, Terry Labonte ; 1995, Jeff Gordon ; 1994, Dale Earnhardt; 1993, Rusty Wallace; 1992, Davey Allison; 1991, Harry Gant ; 1990, Dale Earnhardt; 1989, Mark Martin; 1988, Rusty Wallace; 1987, Dale Earnhardt; 1986, Tim Richmond and Dale Earnhardt; 1985, Bill Elliott ; 1984, Terry Labonte ; 1983, Bobby Allison; 1982, Darrell Waltrip; 1981, Darrell Waltrip; 1980 Dale Earnhardt; 1979 Cale Yarborough; 1978 Cale Yarborough; 1977, Cale Yarborough; 1976, Darrell Waltrip; 1975, Richard Petty; 1974, Richard Petty; 1973, David Pearson; 1972, Bobby Allison; 1971, Bobby Allison; 1970, Bobby Isaac; 1969, LeeRoy Yarbrough.
Betty Jane France named Myers Brothers Award Recipient
RELATED: Full schedule for Champion's Week DARLINGTON, S.C. (Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016) – Betty Jane France, whose philanthropic endeavors away from the race track rivaled those of the well-known family business of NASCAR, has been chosen as the 2016 recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association's prestigious Myers Brothers Award. France, who passed away Aug. 29, 2016, is the mother of NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy. She was the widow of former NASCAR Chairman and CEO William C. France. While auto racing has been the cornerstone of the family profession, Betty Jane France's reach far exceeded the boundaries of the track. Kind and compassionate, France was the guiding force behind the formation of the NASCAR Foundation, the charitable arm of the sanctioning body that seeks to improve the lives of children most in need. She served as chairwoman of the Foundation upon its inception more than a decade ago and was later named chairwoman emeritus. In 2011, the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award, presented by Nationwide, was established in her honor. Each year, the award recognizes outstanding charitable and volunteer efforts of NASCAR fans. Active in her Daytona Beach community as well as abroad, France also helped establish the Speediatrics children's care unit at Halifax Health in Daytona Beach as well as Homestead Hospital in Homestead, Fla. The Myers Brothers Award is named in honor of former NASCAR competitors Billy and Bobby Myers. Determined by a vote of the NMPA membership, it recognizes individuals and/or groups who have provided outstanding contributions to the sport of stock car racing. It has been presented annually since 1958. Myers Brothers Award Winners 2016, Betty Jane France; 2015, Darlington Raceway ; 2014, Dale Earnhardt Jr .; 2013, Tony Stewart ; 2012, Jeff Gordon ; 2011, Drs. Joseph & Rose Mattioli; 2010, Jim Hunter; 2009, Barney Hall; 2008, T. Taylor Warren; 2007, Bill France Jr.; 2006, Benny Parsons; 2005, Rusty Wallace; 2004, Kyle and Patti Petty; 2003, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; 2002, Mike Helton; 2001, Dale Earnhardt; 2000, Kyle Petty; 1999, Junie Donlavey; 1998, T. Wayne Robertson; 1997, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; 1996, Rick Hendrick; 1995, TNN: The Nashville Network; 1994, Brickyard 400/ Indianapolis Motor Speedway ; 1993, Goody's Manufacturing Co.; 1992, Richard and Lynda Petty; 1991, Harry Gant ; 1990. Dick Beaty; 1989, Bill France Jr.; 1988 Richmond International Raceway ; 1987, ESPN; 1986, Hayride 500; 1985, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; 1984, Charlotte Motor Speedway ; 1983, CBS-TV; 1982, MRN; 1981, Junior Johnson; 1980, STP & Champion Spark Plug Co.; 1979, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; 1978, Busch Beer; 1977, First National City Travelers Checks; 1976, Junior Johnson; 1975, Bill France Sr.; 1974, H. Clay Earles; 1973, Wood Brothers; 1972, Winston Cigarettes; 1971, Richard Petty; 1970, Richard Howard; 1969, David Pearson; 1968, Wood Brothers; 1967, Richard Petty; 1966, Norris Friel; 1965, Ned Jarrett; 1964, Richard Petty; 1963, Marvin Panch; 1962, Hank Schoolfield; 1961, Ned Jarrett; 1960, Russ Catlin; 1959, Lee Petty; 1958, Bob Colvin. Here is the complete list of Thursday’s award winners from the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon : · NMPA Myers Brothers Award: Betty Jane France · Buddy Shuman Award: Jack Roush · NASCAR Marketing Achievement Award: Comcast XFINITY · Chevrolet Cross Flags Award: Tony Stewart · American Ethanol Green Flag Restart Award: Kevin Harvick · Coors Light Pole Award: Carl Edwards · Duralast Brakes "Brake in the Race" Award: Kyle Busch · Goodyear NASCAR Series Champion Award: Jimmie Johnson · Ingersoll Rand Power Move Award: Dave Rogers, Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Crew Chief · MAHLE Clevite Engine Builder of the Year Award: Scott Vester, Hendrick Engines No. 4 team · Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew Award: Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 team · Mobil 1 Driver of the Year Award: Kyle Busch · MOOG Steering & Suspension Problem Solver of the Year Award: Alan Gustafson, crew chief No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team · Sherwin-Williams Fastest Lap Award: Kyle Busch · Sunoco Diamond Performance Award: Jimmie Johnson · Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award: Chase Elliott · Champion Sponsor Award: Lowe's · Champion Crew Chief Award: Chad Knaus · Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award Presented by Nationwide: Andy Hoffman &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Where have you gone, Mr. September?
Just months before, the seemingly timeless Nolan Ryan had twirled his seventh no-hitter at the age of 44. Tennis star Jimmy Connors was days into an unlikely, age-defying run into the U.S. Open semifinals at 39. In 1991, the sports world's well had been primed for feats that defied both logic and the limits of advancing years. The NASCAR world was no different. The time was right for 51-year-old Harry Gant . By the 1991 season, the veteran driver already possessed a handful of nicknames to choose from: -- "Hard-Luck Harry ," a label he finally shook by collecting his first premier-series win (1982, Martinsville) after finishing second a heart-wrenching 10 times. -- "The Bandit," a nod to Gant's longtime sponsorship from U.S. Smokeless Tobacco's Skoal brand. -- "Handsome Harry ," his best-known alias, which owed to the matinee-idol good looks that followed him into grandfatherhood. But 25 years ago this month, Harold Phil Gant earned another affectionate handle for his most notable accomplishment in stock-car racing's big leagues -- a history-making, four-race win streak at age 51 that transformed him into "Mr. September." Gant's string of dominance began at Darlington Raceway , the historic South Carolina track that hosts its second NASCAR throwback festival this weekend, culminating with Sunday's Bojangles' Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.) Gant , now 76, plans to be in attendance for pre-race appearances. Other drivers with Hall of Fame credentials have amassed wins in fours since the dawn of NASCAR's modern era in 1971, but other factors beyond his age make Gant's performance a singular achievement. Gant also won twice in what is now the NASCAR XFINITY Series during that magical September, leaving him a streak of six straight national series triumphs. He won all four premier-series races with the same car -- a Leo Jackson-owned No. 33 Oldsmobile Cutlass -- and same engine at all four tracks. "We'll probably run it until we wreck it," Gant said back then. The car was involved in two crashes during the four-race romp, but never lost its winning edge. The phrase "better with age" was Harry Gant defined. He won eight Winston Cup races after the age of 50, a run that made his Skoal Bandit banner a frequent flyer just underneath the American flag at the Alexander County courthouse in his hometown of Taylorsville, North Carolina. Gant still calls the town of nearly 2,100 residents home. Though he hung up his driving gloves after the 1994 season, he's far from the formal interpretation of retirement. From sunup to sundown, Gant can be found either raising cattle and raking pastureland on his 300-acre farm or mowing neighboring solar farms with his grandson. Taking time out to recall the details of his extraordinary record? When his daughter, 55-year-old Debbie Pollard, answers the phone in Gant's nondescript Taylorsville office, she says he's simply far too busy. Maybe when the grass stops growing later into October, she says, pointing out a small window to chat this weekend in Darlington. "That might be a good place to catch him," Pollard says. Twenty-five years ago today at Darlington, no one could. In the three magical weeks that followed, Gant's No. 33 was just as uncatchable. In the spirit of celebrating NASCAR's throwback history this weekend, NASCAR.com takes a race-by-race look at Gant's stunning surge to four wins in a row -- and the chance for a fifth that barely slipped away.
1987 Winston: Where Are They Now?
RELATED: Elliott will 'never forget' Earnhardt move The starting grid for the 1987 Winston All-Star Race looked a lot like an exhibit befitting the NASCAR Hall of Fame. This was The All-Star Race for the ages. Hall of Famers Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, Terry Labonte, Rusty Wallace and Bill Elliott all competed. Greats such as Neil Bonnett, Harry Gant , Ricky Rudd, Buddy Baker, and Benny Parsons were on the 20-driver starting grid, too. A young Davey Allison and a new Daytona 500 winner Geoffrey Bodine lined up alongside these iconic names. The fast and famed Tim Richmond was on the grid, too, in what was his final season of NASCAR competition. And don't forget about Kyle Petty, Bobby Hillin Jr. and Greg Sacks. The only driver on that famed All-Star lineup still NASCAR racing today is Morgan Shepherd, who drove a car fielded by drag racing legend Kenny Bernstein -- and his seventh-place finish that day in his first All-Star Race remains his best showing. That starting lineup was a true convergence of NASCAR's best -- sentimental favorites, crusty veterans, future Hall of Famers and young stars out to make their big names. It had personality. It had top-line credentials. In only its third running, the 1987 race showed exactly the pizzazz that would help forge the All-Star Race into the can't-miss annual event that will be on full display Saturday in the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway . For all its historical allure, amazingly in that famed 1987 race only four drivers even led a lap -- the winner Earnhardt (10), the day's dominant driver Elliott (121), Bodine (3) and Kyle Petty (1). The great seven-time Cup champ Richard Petty crashed with the late superstar Neil Bonnett on Lap 66. As dominant and successful as Petty was, it's easy to forget he never won an All-Star Race. Among the most memorable aspects of this race will undoubtedly be the day's winner Earnhardt's "Pass in the Grass" of Elliott. It wasn't actually a pass at all, but Earnhardt maneuvering to hold onto his late race lead over Elliott in the day's most dominant car. It was the first of three All-Star wins for Earnhardt. And the gritty, hard-nosed final laps racing launched this -- then still young -- event into a bona fide can't-miss rite of spring. The above photo itself has become quite a piece of NASCAR lore. When this group of 20 drivers came together for this indelible image, these are the numbers they would leave behind: 812 premier series victories, 26 premier series championships, 11 All-Star Race wins ... and one urban legend.
Ron Bouchard passes away at age 67
RELATED: Bouchard's standout Modified career Ron Bouchard, winner of the 1981 Talladega 500 and the premier series' rookie of the year that same season, passed away Thursday. He was 67. A family friend and close pal of my fathers Ron Bouchard passed away today. My thoughts and prayers go to his family. — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) December 10, 2015 NASCAR made a statement on Thursday regarding the news, "Ron Bouchard's passion for racing was evident from his very early years in NASCAR. Competition fueled Ron, whether racing modifieds at short tracks across the Northeast or winning rookie of the year honors in NASCAR's premier series. He loved this sport, and made an indelible mark on it, one that won’t soon be forgotten. "NASCAR extends its condolences to the friends and family of Ron Bouchard, a true racer." A native of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, Bouchard pulled off one of NASCAR's most stunning victories when he shot from third to first on the final lap at Talladega (then known as Alabama International Motor Speedway), passing Darrell Waltrip and Terry Labonte to score his lone premier series victory. The win came in his 11th career start. He was driving the Jack Beebe-owned Race Hill Farm No. 47 Buick, with crew chief Bob Johnson. Bouchard had taken over the ride earlier in the season following the departure of driver Harry Gant . Bouchard became the 13th different winner in the 13-year history of the summer race at the 2.66-mile track. "Coming off the fourth turn … I was behind Waltrip and Terry when Terry decided to pass Darrell on the outside," Bouchard told reporters following his Talladega victory. "When he moved up, Darrell moved up to get in front of him. When I saw that, I just shot down to the inside … and moved up fast." A standout Modified driver, Bouchard won track championships at Stafford Springs, Thompson and Seekonk speedways before moving up to what was then known as NASCAR's Grand National division. He made 160 starts at NASCAR’s top level, finishing a career-best eighth in points in '82. In addition to his one win, Bouchard scored 19 top-five and 60 top-10 finishes. He won the series' rookie title in a class that included Morgan Shepherd , Tim Richmond and Joe Ruttman. Seven years later, his brother Ken Bouchard captured the series rookie of the year award as well.
What if Darlington race included throwback drivers?
RELATED: Darlington throwback paint schemes Darlington's throwback theme for Sunday's Bojangles' Southern 500 already is a hit with racers and fans alike, bringing out the creativity in the industry with special paint schemes and providing opportunities to honor great racers who have gone before. But what if along with those throwback paint schemes, like Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s Valvoline No. 88 nod to Cale Yarborough and Clint Bowyer 's No. 15 salute to recently passed Buddy Baker, we could actually bring back the NASCAR legends themselves for this one race. Who would you pick? Hall of Fame crew chief Dale Inman could fill the whole 43-car field with legendary race car drivers. He won seven premier series championships with Richard Petty and an eighth with Terry Labonte , competing against some of the most storied personalities in the sport. "Damn, I've seen 'em all. I don't know …" Inman said of trying to choose just one driver to place in a throwback ride. "Earnhardt Sr. was good there you know." Bowyer, too, wished Earnhardt Sr. could join the field at the 2015 Southern 500. "Obviously for me it would be Earnhardt for me because we lost him, you know. That's first and foremost. Anyone you ever lost is who you'd want to bring back." But Bowyer said bringing back the man with the most wins (47) and most poles (47) at Darlington, David Pearson, would be the ultimate measuring stick for today's Sprint Cup drivers. "Pearson … man, what a character and just a genuine badass and an aggressive and successful racer. Anytime you have someone who's successful in the sport you make a living in, you want to be able to see what he had, what he's made of and see how you stack up." Eddie Wood, co-owner of Wood Brothers Racing , fondly remembers those days with Pearson driving the No. 21 Purolator Mercury. Pearson drove for the Woods Brothers from 1972-79 and won seven times at "The Lady in Black" during that span with two runner-up finishes. "That was his place," Wood said of Pearson's dominance at the South Carolina track. "The hotter the better for David. He liked it HOT, so we'd have to run in the daytime for him." RELATED: Drivers, officials, fans pumped for throwback weekend Inman attributed some of Pearson's success at the track also called "Too Tough To Tame" to his ability to take care of his equipment. This was extra difficult, as Inman recalled, because the track promoter sometimes would put bear's grease on the track between Saturday's practice and Monday's race. Blue laws prevented NASCAR from running on Sundays in South Carolina then. "Pearson just had a knack for taking care of the car. He always had a good car too," Inman said. "At least most of the time. For Darlington we put bars under the fenders. You knew you were gonna hit the wall, so we just put bars in and just bolted them to the right side. But the guard rail wasn't smooth like it is now. And they'll wear the sides out this time with the low downforce package." Aside from the drivers who racked up at the track, including Richard Petty and Buck Baker, Inman said Parnelli Jones' performance at Darlington had lasting impact on the racing there. "Parnelli Jones came out here in maybe 1956 or 57 was the first one to really use the high bank to what it is now. I remember him just sliding up to the fence. He didn't finish, of course." Jones crashed at Darlington in both 1956 and 1957. He finished 50th in a field of 70 cars in 1956 in the No. 1 Torrance Motors Ford and 34th in the No. 11 Ford owned by Oscar Maples in 1957. In 1958, Jones did finish the Southern 500 running, coming in 18th in a field of 48 cars during his last race there. The list of great performances at Darlington is nothing short of epic. Just the list of winners sends any racing fan on a long ride down memory lane: Curtis Turner, Fireball Roberts, Fred Lorenzen, Bobby Allison, Fonty Flock, Neil Bonnett, Benny Parsons, Harry Gant . How would they stack up against Jeff Gordon , the active driver with the most wins at Darlington (seven)? "Herb Thomas and Buck Baker were both really good," Inman added to the list. "But Herb had it as good as anyone in those old Hudson Hornets that Marshall Teague built, and I think he won in a Chevrolet, too." Now that would be an entirely different kind of throwback idea. Run at Darlington again in restored Chevrolets, Fords, Hornets, Plymouths, Pontiacs and Dodges.
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