Skip Barber trained Jeff Gordon demonstrated veteran savvy and gritty zeal by using his back-up car to win last night's The Winston NASCAR All-Star race at rain-doused Lowe's Motor Speedway. The former Winston Cup Champion's victory, his third in...
Skip Barber trained Jeff Gordon demonstrated veteran savvy and gritty zeal by using his back-up car to win last night's The Winston NASCAR All-Star race at rain-doused Lowe's Motor Speedway. The former Winston Cup Champion's victory, his third in this event, brought a once-in-a-lifetime oddity -- a driver winning in a different car than the one he used to start.
The cars were qualified under normal procedures Friday, with Gordon taking 10th on the grid. Procedure, however, broke down on the first green-flag lap of the gimmicky dash for cash.
With vivid lightning to the south and east and with heavy rain reported half a mile away, The Winston came to its starting time, shortly after 9 p.m. EDT. The cars rolled away on schedule.
At the green flag, however, rain began to fall, drenching the first and second turns. The cars hit the wet pavement as though on ice, with a few racers bouncing off the wall. Gordon skidded into the back of Jeff Burton, sending both spinning, causing a driver to slam into the side of Gordon's Chevrolet.
A moderate, 20 minute shower followed, and though track-drying began immediately, the estimated time for a restart was at least an hour off.
NASCAR immediately ruled that, since the first-lap wreck was no one's fault, it would permit teams with crashed cars to pull out their back-ups and prepare them for inspection.
That brought a mad scramble in the garage, with the four teams affected dragging out B cars and swarming over them, pitching free parts about and tightening fittings. Burton's team even managed a 20 minute engine change, swapping in the motor from the A car.
Gordon, meanwhile, went to the care center with a stretched neck and came out sore but otherwise well.
"When I walked out of the infield care center, my neck was saying don't get back in the car, and my heart was saying get back in the car," Gordon said.
"What changed my mind was when I went back to the garage and saw them working so hard. I knew they wanted to win that race, and I wanted to help them do that."
Under a fairly clear flag rule, the first lap was canceled and the race was restarted from go, nearly 2 hours after the scheduled green flag. The four back-up cars were sent to the rear. Gordon quickly showed that his B car was every bit the piece for the purpose, that being three short sprints with few adjustments.
"These are not back-up cars," Gordon said knowingly. "These cars are capable of winning races. We don't have too many sleds in our stable.
"I wasn't concerned about how fast the car could go. I was concerned with how long it would take to get it prepared to get back out there."
A complete wrap up of the Winston Cup race and the balance of weekend activity involving Skip Barber trained racers will follow tomorrow on the Skip Barber Racing News.
- Andrew Torres