The Winston Thinned Out the Big One

The Big One thins 'em out at The Winston By Matthew Leach CONCORD, N.C. (May 22, 1999) Rusty Wallace said it was just one of them racin' deals, and nobody's fault. Bobby Labonte said he had trouble getting up to speed and somebody got into the...

The Big One thins 'em out at The Winston By Matthew Leach

CONCORD, N.C. (May 22, 1999) Rusty Wallace said it was just one of them racin' deals, and nobody's fault. Bobby Labonte said he had trouble getting up to speed and somebody got into the back of him. It wasn't a short-track melee at Bristol, and it wasn't a superspeedway mess at Talladega. It was just another edition of The Winston at Lowe's Motor Speedway, with one-third of the field out of the race before the first segment was even over. The trouble started on the 12th lap, when Bobby Hamilton and Dale Jarrett got mixed up, collecting Ricky Rudd and Jeff Burton in the process. It got even uglier, though, on the restart following that incident. Labonte was slow coming out of the restart, and Mark Martin got into the back of him. Close to half the field was caught in the incident, with Labonte, Martin, Wallace and Ernie Irvan knocked out of the race and Tony Stewart and Bill Elliott among those who continued despite suffering damaged cars. "The thing just wouldn't get up to speed," Labonte said. "I got hit from behind once and ran into some speedy dry in Turn 2 and got a little loose. I got hit again and I got hit again. I was just trying to get out of the way.

"When I got on the gas it just never went. Something was happening internally where it was just not accelerating like it should have. I lost a little oil pressure before that. I was trying to make it to lap 30 and we just didn't make it."

Irvan seemed to get the worst of it, suffering a thoroughly demolished race car and taking a trip to the infield care center. He was checked out and released, but it was a hard hit.

"I was just trying to bide some time," Irvan said. "I got up on the outside and evidently something happened to the 18. He was coming backwards real quick and then all heck broke loose. It was just a bad deal."

However, Martin and Labonte probably lost the most. Martin, the defending winner of this event, and Labonte, the polesitter, had two of the strongest cars on the track and were serious contenders for the win and the ensuing $200,000-plus payday.

Martin was particularly frustrated.

"The race track really didn't get cleaned up that well," Martin said. "And what I saw was Ernie lost it in the dirty stuff up there. Of course the 18 and I were on the bottom and we even slipped too but we still had it under control. Ernie lost control and came down across the race track and got me in the right rear.

"It was just a series of tough situations there for all of us. Not a whole lot of room and everybody packed up and the inside row not taking off as fast as it could have and the race track being slick and we all just had a big wreck.

"The fans are getting a different kind of show this year. Last year they got a great race."

In the end, they did get a great race, with Terry Labonte taking four tires on the final pit stop and beating Jeff Gordon and Stewart in a furious battle. But it was a great race with several great cars removed.

"I'd sure like to be out there right now," Irvan's crew chief, Ryan Pemberton, said with a chuckle. "You have a little better odds right now with all the cars in here."

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Ernie Irvan , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Mark Martin