Philips Racing Team Race Report TranSouth Financial 400 Darlington Raceway March 21, 1999
Michael Waltrip's fortunes changed with the weather at Darlington
DARLINGTON, S.C. (March 22, 1999) -- Michael Waltrip's fortunes changed with the weather in Sunday's TranSouth Financial 400 at Darlington Raceway, turning a promising day into one of frustration.
During the first run of the event, Waltrip's car wasn't perfect, but it was good. The Owensboro, Kentucky driver started 13th in the field, but had his Philips Chevrolet in 11th by the first caution on lap 45. The break in the action was for rain, giving the entire field a chance to pit for service prior to the race being red-flagged. That is when Waltrip's frustration began.
As his Mattei Motorsports pit crew left the wall for a routine four-tire stop, Waltrip parked his machine closer to the wall than he planned, thereby making the stop anything but routine. Working under adverse conditions, the crew eventually completed the stop, sending Waltrip back out for a handful of caution laps before the red flag in 27th position.
"Up to that point, our plan was working perfect," said Waltrip. "We just wanted to get near the top 10 before the rain so we could stand here during the delay with our chests out talking about what we needed to do to win this race."
When the race resumed three hours later, the handling on Waltrip's car had changed, leaving him loose almost everywhere. He and his crew worked to make the car better, but once again the rains came, leaving them with a disappointing 21st place finish and thoughts of what might have been if the race had gone the scheduled 293-lap distance.
"We made a minor adjustment in the rain, and came back out and it was really loose. But, even with that, we were catching a lot of cars," said Waltrip, who dropped from ninth to 10th in the 1999 Winston Cup point standings. "We just slipped and slid too much. I don't think it was anything with the chassis. I think it was something we could have adjusted. We could've worked on it the rest of the day and made it better, and I wish we would've gotten that chance. Any time a race gets stopped short, it hurts your feelings, unless you're torn up and in the lead. I guess that would be about the best scenario."
That is exactly the scenario for race winner Jeff Burton, who was involved in an incident exiting turn four as the rain began to fall for the final time. If the race had continued, Burton would have needed major repairs to his machine. But faced with rain and darkness, NASCAR proclaimed the event complete, giving Burton his second win of the 1999 season.
Next up for Waltrip and the Philips Racing Team is Sunday's event at Texas Motor Speedway, where Waltrip owns two top 10 finished in the series' two appearances there.
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