Waltrip's Gas Gamble Wins Daytona 500; Hendrick Chevys Run 1-2-4
DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Feb. 19) -- Darrell Waltrip stretched his fuel supply in the final laps and won the dramatic Daytona 500, outlasting the speedier Ken Schrader and Dale Earnhardt at Daytona International Speedway.
Waltrip drove non-stop the final 53 laps (132.5 miles) and beat runner-up Schrader by 7.64 seconds to score his first win in stock car racing's premier event in 17 tries. Schrader, who won the pole and led most of the way, dropped out of the lead when he made a pit stop for fuel with 11 laps to go. Second running Dale Earnhardt pitted with Schrader, giving the lead to Alan Kulwicki.
Kulwicki, like Waltrip, tried to go the remaining distance -- but he was foiled by a flat tire four laps from the finish.
Waltrip drove his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet into first place in the 197th of 200 laps and coasted to the finish line first. He won $184,900 for his 74th career Winston Cup triumph.
Schrader, in a team Hendrick Motorsports Monte Carlo, wound up second, just ahead of Earnhardt. Geoff Bodine finished fourth in his Hendrick car, giving the Charlotte auto dealer a 1-2-4 finish in the $1,704,718 season opening event. Fifth place went to Phil Parsons.
Rookie Rick Mast, competing in only his third Winston Cup event, faded from third place to sixth in the final laps. Kulwicki wound up seventh.
"We started thinking about lap 165 that it might go green the rest of the way," said Waltrip. "I asked Jeff (Hammond, crew chief) if we could make it. He and the crew did some figuring and came back on the radio and told me that if we did, it would be close."
Waltrip ran out of gas as he pulled into victory lane.
Bill Elliott went only five laps before turning the wheel of his Ford over to Jody Ridley. Elliott suffered a fractured left wrist in a practice crash when a tire blew. Goodyear's introduction of radial-ply tires to the Winston Cup Series was aborted eight days earlier following wrecks by Elliott and Dale Earnhardt, which were blamed on tire failures. Ridley crashed the car in the second turn on lap 72, triggering a multi-car pile-up.
Davey Allison was clipped by Geoff Bodine on the backstretch in the 23rd lap. Allison's Ford went into a long slide, hit a dirt embankment and flipped over. He continued in the race and wound up 25th, seven laps off the pace.
Allison and Bodine got into a brief scuffle in the garage area after the race. "We could have won the race if it hadn't been for that impatient little (expletive)," complained Allison.
Bodine said he made "an error injudgement and cliped Davey. I told him I was sorry it happened."
Mark Martin, Bobby Hillin, Jr., Chad Little, Rodney Combs, Charlie Baker and Phil Barkdoll were taken out by wrecks.
Neil Bonnett, making his return to the Wood Brothers team, was eliminated in the second lap when an oil line broke on his Ford, causing a fire. Bonnett leaped out of the car with minor burns.
Schrader and Waltrip each earned 180 points to share in the Winston Cup point lead.