The Forgotten NASCAR Dirt Race

It was a massive curveball when it was revealed that Eldora would be joining the NASCAR Truck schedule in 2013, and with it being one of the most popular races on the calendar, the fact that NASCAR West has added a dirt race at Las Vegas for 2018 proves that it’ll probably stay on the calendar for awhile.

NASCAR’s Grand National Division ran its last race in 1970, and though NASCAR West continued to run a few dirt races in the ensuing years, after 1979 they were also removed. However, around the turn of the millennium, NASCAR began flirting with the idea again, leading to one of the most interesting races of the early 2000s.

In the early 2000s, NASCAR began considering a return to dirt. They’d last run a high level dirt race in 1979 when the West Series ran Gardena, and were looking around for a suitable track to make their return to. Angie Wilson, an occasional competitor in the Goody’s Dash Series, suggested that NASCAR hold a Dash race at the Oglethorpe Speedway Park. This was eventually agreed upon, and a race was scheduled.

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Credit to SavannahNow

Opening in 1951, the Oglethorpe Speedway in Pooler, Georgia is one of the more prestigious dirt tracks in the South. It held a few Cup races in the mid-50s, closed in the mid-60s, and reopened in 1977. The track was a 1/2 mile d-oval for many years, though it’s since been shortened to 3/8ths.

Immediately after the Daytona race in 2003, the NASCAR Goody’s Dash Series competitors were in for a fun time setting up their cars for a dirt race. The cavalry, which was mostly made up of Pontiac Sunfires, with an odd sprinkling of Mercury Cougars, Ford Escorts, and Toyota Celica Coupes in the mix, had about two months to prepare for the race, which was to be a 150 lap jaunt known as the Lucas Oil Dash On Dirt 150.

On March 15th, open practice began. The session saw several drivers head to the track, only for a light rainstorm to hit the area. Jake Hobgood, the defending champion, decided to test the track anyway, though most of the other drivers decided not to due to the approaching rain. Testing continued throughout the next couple weeks. Drivers praised both the facility and the idea of a dirt race. Robert Huffman even referred to the first couple laps as “trial and error”.

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Credit to (and of) Zach Brewer

Eventually, race day arrived on April 5th, 2003. The weather was rather overcast for most of the day, and light rain during the afternoon forced crews to dry the track quickly, but by the time the lights came on, the facility was as ready as it would ever be. 23 drivers had showed up to the circuit, though officials expected somewhere around 30. Jake Hobgood qualified on pole in his #64 Toyota, with the #37 Toyota of Robert Huffman on his outside. Rounding out the top five were the #65 Pontiac of Justin Hobgood (somehow sponsored by a Toyota dealership), the #18 Pontiac of Jay Godley, and the #19 Pontiac of Joey Miller, no relation to the 2005 ARCA runnerup. Danny Bagwell’s #10 Mercury started sixth. Lining up seventh was the #26 Pontiac of T.J. Majors. Majors, who currently works as Joey Logano’s spotter, had met Dale Earnhardt, Jr. while racing online, and Dale had taken Majors under his wing as a sort of protégé. On race day, however, organizers inverted the top four. Jake Hobgood kept his pole position, but now Godley started second, Justin Hobgood remaining third and Huffman dropping to fourth.

Jake Hobgood led the field to the green and quickly took the advantage, though the opening caution on lap two quickly mitigated that. When they resumed, he pulled away again, only to quickly lose it with another caution. This would be a recurring theme throughout the opening laps.

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Credit to (and of) Mike Guerity

Jake Hobgood ended up leading until an early caution around lap 25 either for Mike McConnell in the #61 crashing out or the #77 of Michael Guerity blowing his car’s clutch. Most of the field pitted, but Eric Wilson and T.J. Majors did not. Wilson led a few laps before running off course in turn three, giving Majors the lead.

Majors’ lead, however, was cut short on lap 49, when paraplegic driver Raymond Paprota looped his #0 Pontiac on the front chute. Majors and the lapped car of Ned Combs both collided and spun off of turn four, and Combs’ #9 Mercury piled into Paprota’s #0. Majors was able to soldier on, but Combs and Paprota were done. The red flag was waved so crews could clean up debris and help the wheelchair-bound Paprota out of his car. Nobody was injured.

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Credit to (and of) Ned Combs

Robert Huffman inherited the lead after Majors’ misfortunes, and he would remain up front for several dozen laps. Another caution flew for the #95 of Greg Goodell crashing out around lap 60, and around lap 77, Jake Hobgood brought out another yellow when he ran off course in turn one and collided with a tree. He’d already been in at least one incident during the race after colliding with and spinning out Danny Bagwell a few laps prior, and this just made things worse. Hobgood was all right, but he was out of the race. Danny Snell’s #25 caused yet another yellow around lap 95 when he wrecked out. These were only some of the yellows, as the dirt surface, though it provided an exciting race, also provided a crashfest, littered with fifteen yellow flags.

On lap 102, Robert Huffman slid up the track in turn one, giving Jay Godley the lead. Godley almost immediately thereafter ran wide, and Danny Bagwell, who had recovered from his spin, was the beneficiary. Bagwell pulled a gap and led up until the end of the race. Justin Hobgood chased down Bagwell in the closing laps, but was never able to pass him, and Danny Bagwell was the one in victory lane. Hobgood fended off Godley for second, with Robert Huffman and Joey Miller rounding out the top five. The #93 of future Cup team owner Randy Humphrey finished sixth, last car on the lead lap.

As for T.J. Majors and Eric Wilson, Majors managed to salvage eighth, one lap down. Wilson finished 13th, seven laps down, after hitting the wall about halfway through the race and having to have repairs done to his car’s radiator.

Lucas Oil Dash On Dirt 150 Results:

1. #10 Danny BAGWELL
2. #65 Justin HOBGOOD
3. #18 Jay GODLEY*
4. #37 Robert HUFFMAN
5. #19 Joey MILLER
6. #93 Randy HUMPHREY
7. #11 Brandon WARD (-1)
8. #26 T.J. MAJORS* (-1)
9. #2 Scott WEAVER (-1, Out Of Fuel)
10. #1 Scott KREHLING (-2)
11. #02 Kelly SUTTON (-4)
12. #17 Mike WATTS (-6)
13. #4 Eric WILSON* (-7)
14. #98 Roger MOSER (-7)
15. #5 Scott HALLER* (-13)
16. #31 Zach BREWER (-38)
17. #25 Danny SNELL (-57, Crash)
18. #64 Jake HOBGOOD (-73, Crash)
19. #95 Greg GOODELL (-89, Crash)
20. #9 Ned COMBS (-103, Crash)
21. #0 Raymond PAPROTA* (-105, Crash)
22. #77 Michael 
GUERITY (-124, Clutch)
23. #61 Mike McCONNELL (-126, Crash)

Cautions: 15 for 70 laps
Lead Changes: 4
Leaders: 5 (#4, #10, #26, #37, #64)
MoV: 0.410 seconds
Race Duration: 1h39m55s
Hard Charger: #17 Mike Watts
Purse: $20,700
Winner’s Purse: $1,725
Pole Speed: 77.922 mph
Average Sp
eed: 45.038 mph

The event was very popular amongst the fans and the drivers alike, and all in all was ruled a success. However, NASCAR had already announced by the time the Oglethorpe race was conducted that they’d be selling off the Dash Series after 2003. Even when the series was purchased by Buck Parker in 2004, Oglethorpe was not on the calendar, though I was not able to find if Oglethorpe was ever on the schedule to begin with being as several Dash events jumped ship after the death of Roy Weaver III (I’m inclined to believe it was not).

Even still, this race’s uniqueness and entertainment value made it a fond memory for everyone, and it proved ten years before Eldora did that, despite having been a pavement based series for many years, NASCAR can put on a show on dirt.

Sources:

“Jake Hobgood tests at Oglethorpe”, March 18th, 2003 article on motorsport.com

“Dash drivers making tough transition onto OSP’s dirt track”, April 2nd, 2003 article on SavannahNow

“Oglethorpe: Race summary”, April 8th, 2003 article on motorsport.com

“Danny Bagwell wins Goody’s Dash Series, NASCAR Touring race on dirt”, April 5th, 2003 article on Oglethorpe Speedway’s website

Various driver websites

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13 Unknown NASCAR Flips

This idea came to me one day when I was sent a very rare photo by a friend of a crash at Daytona that really no one knows about. I decided I’d chronicle a few flips in NASCAR that no one knows about. Not much more to say, so let’s get started. This is in chronological order. These all come from various flip lists on the internet, most notably CrashTwice’s list, which can be found in a link at the bottom. Also used were a list I found on Reddit and another on rubbins-racin, both of which are also at the bottom. None of them are complete, but all have been excellent references.

There are actually many more beyond these baker’s dozen, and there were even some I couldn’t find any documentation on beyond confirmation that the driver had crashed during the race, or even none at all besides their entry on the lists. See if you can find information on them.

1. JUNIOR JOHNSON (1959, GRAND NATIONAL, HICKORY)

This crash perfectly summarized the racing of the day and its competitors.

During practice for a 1959 race at Hickory, Junior Johnson upended his 1957 #11 Ford. The car flopped back onto its wheels, and Johnson drove it back to the pits. The crew surveyed the damage, repaired the car, and, using the very same car (as backup cars were not permitted in those days), Johnson went on to win the pole and, after a very hard-fought battle, the 250 lap race itself.

2. JESSE SAMPLES (1965, GRAND NATIONAL, ATLANTA)

A driver’s lone start doesn’t go according to plan…

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Credit to Billy Downs

Jesse Samples plowed his #96 Unsponsored Chevy into the barrier during the 1965 Dixie 400 at Atlanta. The car pierced the barrier, sending the car upside down and damaging the barrier severely. The 1963 Chevy was a complete write-off, but Samples was all right. This would prove to be his only start.

3. DAREL DIERINGER (1966, GRAND NATIONAL, RICHMOND)

Whoops?

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Credit to JalopyJournal.com

Darel Dieringer managed to upend his #16 Unsponsored Mercury Marauder at what is now the Richmond International Raceway in 1966. The crash happened when Dieringer went straight on into the wall, which he then climbed. Dieringer was unhurt.

4. RICHARD CHILDRESS (1972, WINSTON CUP, TEXAS WORLD)

It’s very hard to believe that once upon a time Richard Childress was just another independent driver on a shoestring budget.

About two thirds of the way through the 1972 Lone Star 500, a race well remembered for being run during a heat wave, Richard Childress was running on his own when Doc Faustina blew his engine. Childress tried to get out of the way of Faustina, but ended up rolling his #96 Unsponsored Chevrolet three times down turn two, landing in a ditch. Childress was only bruised.

5. BRUCE JACOBI (1977, WINSTON CUP, CHARLOTTE)

A truly vicious crash remembered by few.

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Comes from the 1978 World 600 programme

42 drivers showed up to the 1977 World 600 at Charlotte for 40 spots, so several rounds of qualifying were held. On the Friday before the race, the 12 drivers who had not yet timed their way in took to the track going for the remaining 10 positions. During this “last chance” session, Rick Newsom lost control of his car off of turn four and struck the wall. As the car came down the track, the #78 Unsponsored Chevrolet of Bruce Jacobi plowed into Newsom. The contact was so hard that it jarred Jacobi into the air and for several rolls down the apron before it came to rest on its door. Newsom’s engine was ripped out of the car by the impact. Newsom suffered a broken leg, but Jacobi was removed from the car with only bruises. Both cars were demolished, so Newsom and Jacobi ended up being the two DNQs.

6. BLACKIE WANGERIN (1979, WINSTON CUP, MICHIGAN)

Another vicious one that is not remembered very much.

On lap 2 of the 1979 Champion Spark Plug 400, H.B. Bailey lost an engine and spun his car through turn three. The #39 Wangerin Incorporated Mercury of Blackie Wangerin struck Bailey’s car at high speed, then proceeded to strike the wall with such force that his car jumped the wall as if he was a pole vaulter driving his pole into the ground. The car took out several fence posts as it flew and turned over, eventually coming back down to earth and sliding down the opposing embankment. Wangerin suffered injuries to his abdomen and arm, though what exactly they were was not disclosed. The race was red flagged for about forty minutes for repairs.

Baxter Price’s #45 Oldsmobile suffered heavy damage in the crash, though he eventually returned to the race without bumpers, a hood and a grill.

7. BOBBY BALLANTINE (1981, LATE MODEL SPORTSMAN, DAYTONA)

Yet another extremely violent crash.

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Credit to Real Racin’ USA

Ellicott City, Maryland native Bobby Ballantine lost control of his car off of turn four during the 1981 Sportsman 300, which had been rained out early on on Saturday and was being completed the Monday after the 500. The #1 Pontiac Ventura went airborne and rolled wildly through the air, doing several spectacular twists and turns before coming to rest on its wheels. Ballantine was injured, but he’d return to his local short tracks within a few months.

8. MIKE MESSER (1983, LATE MODEL SPORTSMAN, BRISTOL)

Bristol is very bizarre.

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Credit to Racers Reunion

Short track racer Mike Messer spun his car into the turn two wall during the 1983 Southeastern 150 Late Model Sportsman race. The car flipped over after hitting the wall and slid on its roof down the backstretch before hitting the turn three wall and rolling down the banking. The #27 7-Up Pontiac Ventura was utterly demolished, but Messer was all right and stepped out of his car under his own power.

9. CHARLIE RUDOLPH (1988, WINSTON CUP, DAYTONA)

Fun fact, I’ve actually seen Charlie’s son Erick in action in TQ events, and he’s really good.

During Tuesday practice for the 1988 Daytona 500, Charlie Rudolph was rounding the tri-oval when he came across Ernie Irvan’s slower car running along the apron. The pair disagreed as to what happened. Rudolph said that he lost it in Irvan’s dirty air, while Irvan said Rudolph must have broken something and darted sideways right in front of Irvan. In any case, air got under Rudolph’s car, likely helped by Irvan, and the Ransomville, NY native’s #72 Sunoco Pontiac Grand Prix was sent for several rolls. Richard Petty and Bobby Hillin were also collected. All drivers were unhurt, but Rudolph had to withdraw. Though Rudolph indicated he had another car to run the rest of the season with, he never made another Cup attempt.

10. BILLY STANDRIDGE (1990, BUSCH SERIES, DAYTONA)

Here’s the crash that piqued my interest in doing this article.

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Credit to Phil Fowler, Jody R. Standridge, and Brandon Chrasta

Billy Standridge flipped his #47 Standridge Auto Parts Pontiac Grand Prix all on its own down one of the short chutes during Monday practice for the 1990 Goody’s 300 at Daytona. It’s difficult to ascertain exactly what happened due to the heavy damage specifically to the car’s rear, but in any case Standridge was unhurt.

11. RICH WOODLAND, JR. (1994, WINSTON CUP, SONOMA)

That’s not what they mean by a flying lap…

West Series competitor Rich Woodland, Jr.’s car shot off of turn ten during his qualifying lap while attempting to make the 1994 Save Mart Supermarkets 300. The #86W Gilliland Racing Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme struck the tires, flew over the wall, and landed upside down in the parking area. Woodland was unhurt, but of course, having crashed on his qualifying lap, he’d be flipping burgers, so to speak.

12. SHANE HALL (2000, BUSCH SERIES, LAS VEGAS)

This was a violent, violent crash that is frequently forgotten about, probably because it happened during testing.

On January 31st, 2000, Shane Hall was running in a Busch Series test session at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when his car suffered a steering column failure exiting turn two. It glanced off the outside wall, then darted back across the track directly towards the inside wall at a critical angle. What could have very well been a tragic crash was mitigated somewhat by a tire wall that had been set up down the back chute for some road racing, but the end result was still terrifying. Hall’s #0 Ohio State University Chevrolet Monte Carlo slammed the tire wall and flew into the air, sending his car for no less than five jarring rolls. The car was demolished, and Hall suffered a broken left ankle, but he was back behind the wheel within a day.

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Credit to Rubbin’s Racin’

13. BRIAN VICKERS (2002, BUSCH SERIES, ROCKINGHAM)

This one has been thrown around for the past few years, but I actually have confirmation that it happened.

I was never able to find much on this crash, which occurred during a test session. I actually had to ask the man himself, and was unfortunately not given much info. But whatever happened, one thing’s for sure. During a test session at Rockingham in early 2002, Brian Vickers blew a tire exiting turn two and flipped his #29 Dodge Intrepid on its lid, presumably after hitting the oddly-sloped backstretch wall.

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Source currently unknown

CrashTwice’s flip list

List of NASCAR Flips 1941 – Present (Reddit)

NASCAR Flips 1941-Present (Rubbins-racin)