Throwback Thursday – 1992 Miller Genuine Draft 500 (July 19, 1992)

 

Davey Allison at Richmond International Raceway, 1992. Photo Credit: John Harrelson
Davey Allison at Richmond International Raceway, 1992. Photo Credit: John Harrelson

 

Written by: Brandon Whitton – follow on twitter @whittonbm

July 30, 2014  

The Winston Cup Circuit converged for the second time in 1992 at Long Pond, PA, for race number 16 of the 29 race season. Teams and drivers were well rested, as the Series had their sixth off weekend of the schedule following the Pepsi Firecracker 400 at Daytona on July 4th two weeks prior.

Halfway through the premier series season, Ford had a strangle hold on the competition, leading the points with the top three positions and victories in more than half of the races. Two Ford’s stood out amongst the rest; Davey Allison and his Robert Yates Racing team, and Bill Elliott and his Junior Johnson & Associates team. Allison had piloted the No. 28 Texaco/Havoline Ford Thunderbird to victories at the Daytona 500, North Wilkesboro, Talladega, The Winston at Charlotte, and Michigan to secure a 46 point advantage over Elliott heading into Pocono. Elliott’s No. 11 Budweiser Ford Thunderbird kicked off the season in record fashion, tying a Cup series mark of four consecutive victories with triumphs at Rockingham, Richmond, Atlanta and Darlington. 

Allison gained the points lead with his season opening victory, and had yet to relinquish it.  An impressive feat made all the more improbable due to the numerous injuries Allison sustained in the first half of the year. Broken ribs courtesy of Bristol concrete forced Davey to wear an electrical therapeutic device called a TENS unit to ease the pain. Two weeks later at the next Cup event, Allison had relief driver Jimmy Hensley practice and qualify his car into the next race at Wilkesboro. Despite the pain, Davey wore the TENS unit en route to the checkered flag. Four weeks later, a spectacular crash triggered by contact with Kyle Petty’s Pontiac at the finish line of The Winston pancaked the driver side of Allison’s Ford with the quad oval wall. The impact cracked Davey’s helmet and left him with a concussion, though that did not keep Davey from driving, as he finished fourth the next weekend in the Coca-Cola 600. A month and a half later, during an off week between Daytona and Pocono, Allison was hospitalized for two days with a headache related illness unrelated to his racing accidents. 

However, nothing could slow the 31 year old second generation driver from Hueytown, AL, as he captured his second Busch Pole Award of the season with a new track record of 162.022 MPH. Ricky Rudd’s neon orange No. 5 Tide Chevrolet Lumina started next to Allison, with Mark Martin, Ernie Irvan and Ken Schrader rounding out the top five starting positions. Bill Elliott, Allison’s closest title pursuer, qualified a pedestrian 16th, a precarious position given his stellar season and dominating record at Pocono, where he shared the record of four victories with the late Tim Richmond.

When the green flag dropped, 41 cars fanned out four and five abreast across the massive front straightaway to jockey for the preferred line into the sweeping 14 degree banked first turn. Allison jumped out front and gapped Ricky Rudd by a comfortable one second margin. Meanwhile, Rudd was occupied with fending off his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Ken Schrader as the rest of the field fell single file around the 2.5 mile triangle. 

The sight of the No. 28 rear bumper would be a common theme for the day, as Allison led 99 of the first 118 laps, losing the lead briefly during several green flag pit stops. The first caution of the event came at lap 119, erasing a near ten second advantage for Allison, when debris from a broken shock absorber fell from the No. 41 Kellogg’s Chevrolet Lumina driven by Greg Sacks. All of the leaders headed for the pits to receive fresh Goodyear Eagle tires and Unocal 76 racing fuel. Kyle Petty’s No. 42 Mello Yello Pontiac passed Allison in the pits, thanks to the continued quick pit stops from his Team SABCO crew. Racing resumed on lap 124, with Petty’s time as leader lasting one corner, as Allison used the slower vehicles of Rusty Wallace and Terry Labonte to trap Petty out of the groove and retake the top spot. Flagman Doyle Floyd slowed the field for caution 15 laps later, when the No.16 Roush Racing Keystone Beer Ford of Wally Dallenbach, Jr. smacked the wall in turn 2. This caution played a significant role in strategy for the leaders, reducing the number of scheduled pit stops for fuel from two to one. Cars once again hit pit road, but Allison was plagued with a slow stop, relegating him to fifth position, behind leader Alan Kulwicki, Ricky Rudd, Kyle Petty, and Darrell Waltrip. 

One of the most memorable and violent accidents in NASCAR history was reason for the third and final caution of the day. Davey Allison was attempting to regain lost track position, when on lap 150, he attempted to block the No. 17 Western Auto Parts Chevrolet Lumina of three time Winston Cup Champion Darrell Waltrip. “Jaws”, as he was known, carried great momentum exiting turn two, driving to the inside of Allison. Darrell was pinched some 30 feet from the racing line to the grass, as his right front turned Allison sideways into the infield, where it immediately became airborne, bounced, barrel rolled and somersaulted 11 times on top of and over a guardrail and earth embankment. The now unrecognizable Texaco/Havoline Thunderbird lay upside-down, gushing fuel and oil directly in front of the turn 3 safety crews. Additional rescue workers immediately attended to Allison, who miraculously was conscious and alert. Some 10 minutes later, Allison was extricated from the wreckage, placed on a backboard and taken by ambulance to the infield care center. He was flown by helicopter to Lehigh Valley Hospital, where he was diagnosed with a fractured and dislocated right wrist, two breaks in his right forearm, and a broken right collarbone. Doctors set his wrist with pins. and his forearm with two plates and thirteen screws. Allison was credited with a 33rd place finish.

During the lengthy caution, several drivers visited pit road again to top off on fuel, one of them being Darrell Waltrip. It became apparent Waltrip and crew chief Jeff Hammond were gambling on racing the remaining 42 laps on one tank of fuel, while everyone in front of Waltrip would have to pit for fuel to reach the 500 mile distance. Waltrip delicately conserved fuel by lifting off the accelerator, not an easy task when fending off other racecars. On lap 188, Waltrip overtook the No. 55 Jasper Engines Ford of Ted Musgrave who stopped for fuel to lead for the first time in the event. The No.17 Western Auto Parts crew watched anxiously in the closing laps as Harry Gant, driving the No. 33 Skoal Bandit Oldsmobile closed in on Waltrip. However, Gant could not pursue Waltrip too aggressively, as he was on the same strategy of fuel conservation. 

For Waltrip, the gamble paid dividends, $63,445 to be exact, as the Owensboro, Kentucky native took the checkered flag by 1.31 seconds over Gant for his 82nd premier series victory, moving him one win behind Cale Yarborough for fourth on the all time wins list. It also placed Waltrip in a three way tie with Bill Elliott and Tim Richmond for most career victories at Pocono International Raceway. Rounding out the top five were Alan Kulwicki, Ricky Rudd and Ted Musgrave. Bill Elliott finished 13th, but snatched the Winston Cup points lead from Davey Allison, now leading the No.28 team by nine markers.

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