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1992 Hooters 500

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1992 Hooters 500
Race details[1]
Race 29 of 29 in the 1992 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season
Layout of Atlanta Motor Speedway (used until March 1997)
Layout of Atlanta Motor Speedway (used until March 1997)
Date November 15, 1992 (1992-November-15)
Official name Hooters 500
Location Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton, Georgia
Course Permanent racing facility
1.522 mi (2.449 km)
Distance 328 laps, 499.216 mi (803.410 km)
Weather Sunny & Cold with temperatures up to 57 °F (14 °C); wind speeds up to 13 miles per hour (21 km/h)
Average speed 133.322 miles per hour (214.561 km/h)
Attendance 162,500
Pole position
Driver Richard Jackson Racing
Time 30.409
Most laps led
Driver Alan Kulwicki AK Racing
Laps 103
Winner
No. 11 Bill Elliott Junior Johnson & Associates
Television in the United States
Network ESPN
Announcers Bob Jenkins, Benny Parsons and Ned Jarrett

The 1992 Hooters 500 was the 29th and final race of the 1992 NASCAR season. It was held on November 15, 1992, at Atlanta Motor Speedway and is widely considered the greatest NASCAR race of all time,[2][3] with three stories dominating the race: the debut of Jeff Gordon in the Winston Cup Series, the final race of seven-time champion Richard Petty's thirty-five-year career,[4][5] and the battle for the series points championship with six drivers mathematically eligible to win the title.

The race was won by Bill Elliott in the No. 11 Budweiser Ford for Junior Johnson and Associates. The championship was won by Alan Kulwicki, driving the No. 7 Hooters Ford for AK Racing, which he also owned. Kulwicki placed second in the race, and by virtue of leading one more lap than Elliott clinched the title by securing five bonus points for leading the most laps, which enabled him to maintain a ten-point cushion he had over Elliott entering the race.[6][7]

The 1992 Hooters 500 represented the 33rd running of the Atlanta fall race, and the sixth time the event was held as the NASCAR season finale.

Background

In 1992 Atlanta Motor Speedway was one of eight intermediate tracks, a track between one and two miles in length, to hold a Winston Cup Series race. [8] The layout at Atlanta Motor Speedway at the time was a four-turn traditional oval track that was 1.522 miles (2.449 km) long.[9] The track's turns are banked at twenty-four degrees, while the front stretch, the location of the finish line, and the back stretch are banked at five.[9]

The race, and its subsequent championship outcome, was run under the old NASCAR points system. The points system in place at the time had debuted in 1975, and the drivers would compete to accumulate the most points over the course of the entire season. The driver with the most points being awarded the series championship. This system would later be replaced by the playoff system at the start of the 2004 season.

Since each driver's point total was cumulative, this meant that if a driver had a successful season leading up to the final race, he could have already mathematically guaranteed himself the championship either by having an insurmountable points lead or enough of a points lead that all he needed to do was start the final race to guarantee himself the title. For example, Dale Earnhardt, at that time a five-time series champion, had done this three times in his career already; his 1986 and 1987 points championships were both clinched before the season's last race and in 1991 he was only required to start the finale to win.

Other seasons would regularly see two or three drivers mathematically eligible for the championship at the final race, as seen in Rusty Wallace's championship in 1989 and Earnhardt's championship in 1990 which were both seasons in which the champion finished with a narrow margin over second place. Such a high number as six drivers was a rarity, and set a series record for most drivers eligible for the championship at the final race.

Media coverage

Television

ESPN broadcast the race to a nationwide television audience as part of its Speedworld motor racing series. Bob Jenkins was the lap-by-lap commentator with Benny Parsons and Ned Jarrett as analysts in the booth. Jerry Punch and John Kernan reported from pit road.

Radio

The race was also carried over radio by Motor Racing Network. Barney Hall manned the announce position in the booth. Joe Moore reported from turns one and two, with Allen Bestwick stationed on the backstretch and Eli Gold in turns three and four.

Pre-race

Coming into the race, six drivers had a mathematical chance to win the title, the most ever. The points standings were led by Davey Allison, driving the #28 Texaco/Havoline Ford for Robert Yates Racing, who had experienced a roller-coaster season. Allison had won the season opening Daytona 500, and four other races. However, his season was nearly halted on more than one occasion, after bad wrecks at Bristol in April, The Winston in May and at Pocono in June. In August, he mourned the death of his brother Clifford, who was killed practicing for the Busch Series race at Michigan. Disappointment also met Allison at Darlington in September. A win at the Southern 500 would clinch him the coveted Winston Million. However, a crew member misread a weather radar screen, and the crew brought Allison in for a pit stop. Moments later, an approaching rain storm ended the race early, and Allison settled for 5th place.

Allison rebounded, and won the second to last race of the season at Phoenix. Allison was attempting to become the second second-generation driver to win the Winston Cup Championship - his father Bobby won the title in 1983. At the time, Lee and Richard Petty were the only father-son duo to have won the championship.

Bill Elliott, driving for Junior Johnson, had departed from his longtime ride at Melling Racing's #9 car to join the six-time champion team and pilot the #11 Budweiser Ford. Elliott won the spring race at Atlanta earlier in the season, part of a four-race winning streak, tying a modern era NASCAR record for consecutive Cup Series wins in a single season. Altogether, he earned 16 top-ten finishes.[10] Experiencing a generally more consistent season up to that point, Elliott led by as many as 154 points in the season championship on September 20. But he began to falter, and had three bad races in a row, dropping his lead to 39 points with three races left. At the second to last race of the season at Phoenix, Elliott's car suffered a cracked cylinder head and overheating problems, which relegated him to a 31st-place finish. He slipped from first to third in the points standings going into the final race.

"UNDERBIRD" lettering on the car's front bumper
"UNDERBIRD" lettering on the car's front bumper

Alan Kulwicki, who ran the #7 Hooters for AK Racing which he owned outright, was considered the third and final primary contender, and the underdog to win the championship. While he had only won two races in 1992 up to that point, he had 10 top-5s and 16 top-10s.[11] He was running at the finish at all but two races so far. Despite a crash at Dover in September, he rebounded to post finishes of 12th or better in the five races leading up to Atlanta. Kulwicki received approval from NASCAR and Ford to change the "Thunderbird" lettering on his bumper by putting two Mighty Mouse patches on the "TH" in "THUNDERBIRD" because he felt like the underdog for winning the championship, and Kulwicki admired the character, which symbolized him and his team (many of whom later became champions themselves long after his death).

Allison would mathematically clinch the championship if he finished sixth or better, regardless of the other five drivers' performances.[12] If Allison were to lead a single lap during the race, all he had to do was finish 7th or better; if he had led the most laps, he needed only to finish 8th or better. Numerous other championship scenarios generally favored Allison, provided he finished ahead of, or close to his competitors, and led a lap during the race. Kulwicki entered the race needing to make up thirty points, while former points leader Elliott needed to make up forty.

After Kulwicki, three other drivers had an outside chance to win the championship. Harry Gant, driving the #33 Skoal Oldsmobile for Leo Jackson Motorsports, entered the race 97 points behind Allison, and had won two races during the season. Kyle Petty, driving the #42 Mello Yello Pontiac for Team SABCO, was one point behind Gant, having also won twice. Kyle Petty's opportunities were particularly noteworthy. He would be the first third-generation Winston Cup Champion (behind grandfather Lee and father Richard), and he would also have the chance to win the title on the same day his father Richard was retiring. The last driver with a chance was Mark Martin, in the #6 Valvoline Ford for Roush Racing, who was 113 points behind Allison. Attention during the day focused on Gant, Petty, and Martin, but all three basically needed to win the race, lead the most laps, and hope for the other championship contenders to drop out. Martin's attempt, in particular, would have been the most difficult to pull off.

Of the six championship contenders, the only one that was a former Winston Cup champion was Elliott, who was the 1988 series champion. The closest former champion to Elliott in points was eighth place Darrell Waltrip, the owner-driver of the #17 Western Auto Chevrolet who was not mathematically able to win the title.

Championship standings entering the 1992 Hooters 500

  1. Davey Allison, 3928 points
  2. Alan Kulwicki, −30
  3. Bill Elliott, −40
  4. Harry Gant, −97
  5. Kyle Petty, −98
  6. Mark Martin, −113
  7. Ricky Rudd, −281
  8. Darrell Waltrip, −363
  9. Terry Labonte, −414
  10. Ernie Irvan, −429

Bold indicates drivers mathematically eligible for the 1992 NASCAR Winston Cup championship

Richard Petty's Fan Appreciation Tour

Since this was the last event of the season, it also marked the final stop on Richard Petty's "Fan Appreciation Tour." On October 1, 1991, Petty announced he would retire at the end of the 1992 season. He planned on running the entire season, not just selected events, and to that point, had managed to qualify for all 28 of the events in 1992. Media coverage of Petty's final race was extensive, and the weeks leading up to the race saw considerable pre-race hype and anticipation. Ticket sales were brisk, and a record sell-out crowd was expected at Atlanta to see "King Richard" in his final event.

Under the spotlight of attention during the 1992 season, Petty's on-track results had been so far unimpressive. He had scored zero top tens, and had a best finish of 15th (three times). His most notable race of the season came at Daytona during the July 4 Pepsi 400. With President George H. W. Bush in attendance, Petty was honored during the pre-race ceremonies. He qualified on the outside of the front row, and led the first five laps of the race.

At Atlanta, facing the intense pressure of a hectic schedule of appearances and honors, not to mention the actual on-track activities, Petty barely managed to qualify for the Hooters 500. He posted the 39th-fastest speed out of 41 cars. He would not have been eligible for the provisional starting position, and had to qualify on speed. Petty stood on his first round time, and sweated out second round qualifying. He slipped from 36th to 39th on the grid, but was not bumped from the lineup. With Petty safely in the field, the stage was set for a huge sendoff. Ceremonies to honor Petty were planned in the pre-race and post-race, and Petty was expected to take a ceremonial final lap around the track after the race to formally conclude his career. On the night before the race, Alabama held a concert honoring Petty at the Georgia Dome, with 45,000 in attendance.[13]

On the night before pole qualifying, Richard Petty's cousin and longtime crew chief and team manager Dale Inman was robbed at gunpoint in the parking lot of the Atlanta airport. The robber tried to grab a necklace from Inman's neck, but failed. He pointed his gun and pulled the trigger, but it did not fire, and no one was injured.

Qualifying

Pole qualifying

The first round of qualifying was held on Friday November 13. Rick Mast won his first career pole position in the #1 Skoal Oldsmobile for Richard Jackson Racing, the last ever pole for Oldsmobile as General Motors was withdrawing the brand from NASCAR after the race. (Mast, Gant, and Bob Schacht fielded the only Oldsmobiles in the race.)

Mast recorded a qualifying speed of 180.183 miles per hour (289.976 km/h) was the first-ever NASCAR qualifying speed over 180 mph at an intermediate length circuit. Previously that speed had only been achieved at Daytona and Talladega. He was joined on the front row by Brett Bodine, driving the #26 Quaker State Ford for King Racing.

Under the rules at the time, the first round of qualifying locked in only the top twenty cars. In first round qualifying, all of the six championship contenders except for Harry Gant qualified. Mark Martin (4th) was the highest of the six contenders. Richard Petty was not among the top twenty. A field of 40 cars (plus at least one provisional) was expected to comprise the starting grid. With Petty sitting 36th-fastest after Friday's first round, he was precariously close to being bumped from the field on Saturday.

  • Source: The (Lexington, NC) Dispatch, Saturday, November 14, 1992, p. 2B.

Second round qualifying

Second round qualifying was held on Saturday November 14. Under the rules at the time, drivers who did not qualify during the first round moved on to second round qualifying. Each driver could elect to stand on his time from the first round, or erase their time and make a new attempt. Rookie Jeff Gordon bettered his time from the day before, and became the fastest qualifier of the second round. That entered him into the wild card drawing for the 1993 Busch Clash.

Most drivers stood on their times, including Richard Petty, who held on to qualify 39th. Jimmy Hensley elected to try again, and wound up losing eleven spots on the grid. Stanley Smith, who did not even make top 40 on Friday, made a big improvement, qualifying 33rd. Likewise, Jimmy Horton went from only 47th-fastest on Friday, to qualify 36th.

Race

Start

A record 160,000 fans, some with seats in temporary grandstands, arrived at Atlanta Motor Speedway to witness Richard Petty's final ride, and to watch the exciting championship battle. Country Western Band Alabama sang the national anthem, then Richard Petty's son Kyle along with his sisters gave Richard the command to fire his engine one final time, while Bruton Smith gave the command to the rest of the field. Before the start of the race, four Apache helicopters did a fly-by and circled the track to salute the field.

The green flag then flew with polesitter Rick Mast in the #1 Skoal Oldsmobile for Richard Jackson Motorsports and Brett Bodine in the #26 Quaker State Ford for King Racing, battling into turn one, with Bodine leading the first lap. On lap 2, the two cars tangled, and crashed in turn one. Dale Earnhardt, the defending series champion whose reign was ending that day and who was running third in his familiar #3 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, slipped by, and took over the lead. Several other cars were collected in the crash, and five of the championship contenders got through unscathed. Davey Allison, however, slowed to avoid the crash, and was tagged from behind in the left rear by Hut Stricklin's #41 Chevrolet. The left rear fender was badly bent, but did not puncture the tire. Allison stayed out on the track, and the crew would be able to bend the bodywork away from the tire on the next pit stop. The cars of Rich Bickle, Wally Dallenbach Jr., and Bob Schacht were also involved but sustained only minor damage and were able to continue.

During the caution, Mark Martin ducked into the pits to change all four tires, because he was afraid he ran over debris from the incident, as well as flat-spotting the tires when he locked up the brakes and slid sideways to avoid it.

Early race

Earnhardt and Ernie Irvan, driving the #4 Kodak Chevrolet for Morgan-McClure Motorsports, traded the lead for the first 60 laps. Championship contenders Elliott, Allison, and Kulwicki ran near the top 10, while Gant, Martin, and Kyle Petty ran near the back of the pack. Richard Petty worked up to 30th.

By lap 60, entering the first round of green flag pit stops, the highest running of the championship contenders was Elliott in fifth. With the leaders in for service, Michael Waltrip spun out in the Bahari Racing #30 Pennzoil Pontiac and brought out the caution. Earnhardt and several other front runners lost a lap after being stuck on pit road. After the cycle completed under caution, four of the top five positions were filled by championship contenders. Elliott assumed the lead with Kulwicki second, Martin fourth, and Gant fifth.

The news was not all good for the #7 team. After his service was complete, Kulwicki attempted to shift into first gear and nothing happened. He was able to get the car started by shifting into fourth gear, but his crew would have to push him out. The gearbox attached to the transmission had malfunctioned and left the #7 without first gear. Since downshifting in this condition could put serious stress on the transmission and potentially result in engine failure, Kulwicki’s only choice was to keep the car in fourth gear the entire race.

However, Kulwicki had recent experience dealing with the same issue. Several races earlier, at the Mello Yello 500 at Charlotte, the same issue befell the #7. Kulwicki, who had qualified for that race on the pole, ended up running second with one of the faster cars on track that afternoon. On this day, the “Underbird” was running fast as well, so Kulwicki pressed on with the only concerns being the potential for slow pit stops and having to restart after cautions since the car could not climb through the gears as it normally would.

Richard Petty crash

On lap 85, Bob Schacht stalled in turn 1 & another series of yellow flag pit stops had shuffled the field, bringing Allison to the lead. Martin took the lead on lap 91, which meant that now four of the championship contenders (Martin, Allison, Elliott, and Kulwicki) has secured five bonus points for leading a lap. Five of the six contenders were running well, with Gant running third behind Martin and Allison and Elliott and Kulwicki running in the top ten. Kulwicki’s car was performing extremely well despite having to run in fourth gear all day, and once up to speed it was the fastest on the track. Kyle Petty, however, was not as fortunate. The #42 developed terminal engine trouble that took him out of contention for the championship (as he would have needed to win the race and get help) and would result in his finishing near the rear of the field, multiple laps down.

On lap 95, the #25 Kodiak Chevrolet of Ken Schrader and the #8 Snickers Ford of Dick Trickle tangled on the frontstretch. The cars spun wildly to the inside. Darrell Waltrip's #17 Western Auto Chevrolet spun to avoid the crash, and ran into the #16 Keystone Beer Ford driven by Wally Dallenbach, Jr.. The #45 Terminal Trucking Ford of Rich Bickle was also collected, which led to Richard Petty running into him and destroying the front end of the car, breaking the oil cooler. The oil started a fire, and Petty's car coasted to the infield in flames. Petty (who was overheard on ESPN's in-car camera shouting to the rescue crews "BRING THE F***ING FIRE EXTINGUISHER!"[14]) was uninjured, however the car was badly damaged, and his return to the race was in question.[15]

At the 100 lap mark, Allison continued to hold the hypothetical lead in the points standings, with Kulwicki second, and Elliott close behind in third.

Second half

Around lap 118, rookie Jeff Gordon brought the #24 Chevrolet into the pits for service. The Ray Evernham-led "Rainbow Warriors" crew, which in later years would become famous for their pit stop efficiency, was nowhere near that level in this race and their errors caused Evernham to refer to them as the “Keystone Kops”.[16] During the stop, a roll of duct tape was left on the trunk lid. As Gordon left, the roll of tape rolled onto the track, where Davey Allison ran over it. The #28 suffered damage to the front air dam, which caused Allison to drop back from second place where he had been running; he would continue to battle handling issues for the rest of the race.[16] Gordon would eventually crash out of the race on lap 164, finishing 31st.[15]

As the race neared its halfway point, the battle for the championship began to consolidate. On lap 160, Martin was forced to retire from the event after the engine blew on the #6. Gant would also fall back in the field as the race progressed and never was able to get back up to the front. With Petty’s car barely running, this left the #28, #11, and #7 as the only cars that could still contend for the title. On lap 167, Elliott passed Ernie Irvan to retake the lead. Allison still managed to hold onto his points lead as he stayed up front, running seventh with an 11 point margin separating him from both Elliott and Kulwicki.

On lap 210, Kulwicki passed Elliott and took the lead for the second time of the race, and the first time since lap 80. Kulwicki took full advantage of this, beginning a long run at the front. Allison, however, was still running in the top ten, in sixth place and as long as he was able to stay there, he would score enough points to clinch the championship.

On lap 254,[12] Irvan, who was now running three laps down, lost control of the #4 and spun out on the front stretch and into the path of Davey Allison, who had nowhere to go and t-boned Irvan. Allison's car would suffer tie rod and steering damage as both cars came to rest on the inside wall on the front straightaway. Allison would make it back onto the track after spending a significant amount of time in the garage, but would finish 53 laps down in 27th place, finishing the lowest of the six championship contenders whose cars were still running,[15] and finishing ahead of only Mark Martin (who finished 32nd after blowing an engine).

Finish

With the race now under caution due to the Allison-Irvan wreck, race leader Kulwicki was now the points leader. Kulwicki and his crew chief Paul Andrews began to plot strategy for the remainder of the race. Initially, the idea was for him to come in for a pit stop during the caution and fill the fuel tank, but the two men decided not to because even taking into account the possibility of more caution periods, the crew would be counting on Kulwicki to run seventy laps on a single tank and that would prove unfeasible. Using his penchant for “thinking outside the box”, Kulwicki and Andrews decided the best bet was for them to maximize their position on the track and run for points. Since he and Elliott had already each gotten points for leading a lap, the goal was to lead enough laps to get the additional five points for leading the most laps. So, Kulwicki stayed on the track and when the green flag dropped on lap 258 he resumed his spot as the dominant car while the crew went to work on a late race strategy.

At lap 300, Kulwicki held about a two second lead on Elliott. Crew chief Andrews decided on a fuel-only stop and figured out that in order to get a full eleven gallon load of a fuel can into the car, six seconds were required. However, since they only needed to get Kulwicki to the checkered flag, a full can was not needed. Andrews calculated that just over five gallons, half a can, would get them to the end. The stop was supposed to occur on lap 306, and that Kulwicki needed to conserve fuel to make sure he reached that point. As Elliott began to catch him, Kulwicki was told to stay out for a few more laps to gain the five extra bonus points for leading the most laps regardless of what Elliott did the rest of the race. Kulwicki just needed to finish third or better at that point. Elliott tried and failed to pass Kulwicki, who finally pulled off track on lap 310. He had led the previous 101 laps, pushing his total to 103 for the race.

With the #11 now once again at the point, Kulwicki slowly brought the #7 to his pit stall.[17] Car chief and gas man Tony Gibson stood waiting for his boss as he would be the only crew member over the wall. The rest stood by just in case Kulwicki stalled again as he had earlier. After 3.4 seconds, Kulwicki took off and headed back onto the track. However, there was an issue with the fuel relay and Gibson was unsure he got enough gas into the tank.[17]

Elliott was also going to have to come in to get fuel, since he could not make it to the end. The difference was that Elliott could potentially tie Kulwicki for most laps led, which would result in both drivers receiving the ten bonus points and force Kulwicki to finish no more than one place behind Elliott. However, Elliott’s crew made their own mistake a few laps after Kulwicki stopped.

After Kulwicki returned to the track, Terry Labonte assumed second place in the #94 Sunoco Oldsmobile. Elliott’s crew chief, Tim Brewer, did not immediately call his driver into the pits to get his fuel topped off once the #7 had come in. Instead he chose to wait until lap 314, letting Labonte assume the point until he came back up to speed and passed him on lap 316.

Brewer’s error resulted in his driver losing out on the bonus points. Since there were only twelve laps remaining once Elliott regained first place, his maximum total of laps led would be 102, one less than the 103 Kulwicki had led. Since the focus of Kulwicki was now strictly on winning the championship, Elliott’s only real chance was to have some sort of malady befall the #7 before the checkered flag dropped; Elliott’s lead was significant enough that unless he found trouble, he would cross the finish line first and win his fifth race of the season.

Kulwicki, who had passed Labonte to regain second place, was told on lap 324 that he had gained the five extra bonus points for leading the most laps. Andrews also told him that the crew was unsure of the fuel situation, as they did not know for certain whether they got the necessary amount into his tank to get him to the finish. He told Kulwicki to conserve whatever he could and ride the remaining five laps out.

All Kulwicki needed to do, then, was to stay where he was to ensure the championship. If he could not, he could only afford to lose one more position and stay in front of Elliott. Third place belonged the #15 Motorcraft Ford driven by Geoff Bodine, and the #12 Raybestos Brakes Ford driven by Jimmy Spencer was running fourth. If both drivers managed to pass him and Elliott won the race, Kulwicki and Elliott would end up in a tie and the first tiebreaker, total wins, would go to Elliott with his five wins to Kulwicki’s two and give him the title. Fortunately for the “Underbird”, Bodine and Spencer were both running behind the #7 and Kulwicki did not need to concern himself with racing them for position and using up his fuel.

When the checkered flag fell, Elliott came across first and recorded his fifth victory of the season. Kulwicki's fuel held up, and he won the championship while finishing a distant second.[3] Kulwicki's final lead in the standings was just ten points,[3] the closest margin in NASCAR history until the 2011 season when Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards finished in a tie for first place, with the championship going to Stewart due to him winning 5 races to Edwards' 1.

Richard Petty's crew worked diligently all afternoon to get his car running again, and with two laps remaining, Petty pulled out of the pits. His car had no sheet metal on the front end[15] and no hood. He finished 35th, and was credited as running at the finish in his final race.[18] Commenting on the fire, Petty said, "I wanted to go out in a blaze of glory; I just forgot about the glory part." After the victory lane celebration, Petty climbed in the car for one final ceremonial lap to salute the fans. He waved out the window while the song "Richard Petty Fans" by Alabama was played on the public address system.

Immediately after taking the checkered flag, Alan Kulwicki drove back around to the frontstretch. He proceeded to stop at the flagstand and turn around, to drive what he referred to as a "Polish victory lap", clockwise (backwards) around the track, waving to fans. It mimicked a similar celebration he did at his first victory in 1988 at Phoenix. Kulwicki admitted after the race in his post-race and championship interview that he took his time coming down pit road on his final stop to make sure he didn't get a speeding penalty or stall the car again like he did on his first pit stop.

After the race, a furious Junior Johnson fired Tim Brewer for his error that cost Elliott his chance at the championship. It was the last time Johnson got that close to a title as a car owner; although Elliott would record two more top ten points finishes driving the #11, he would only record one more victory with Johnson before leaving to start his own team for 1995. Johnson would leave NASCAR altogether after 1995, selling his team to Brett Bodine.

Box score

Finish Start Car
no.
Driver Car make Entrant Laps Status
1 11 11 Bill Elliott Ford Thunderbird Junior Johnson & Associates 328 Running
2 14 7 Alan Kulwicki Ford Thunderbird AK Racing 328 Running
3 8 15 Geoffrey Bodine Ford Thunderbird Bud Moore Engineering 328 Running
4 18 12 Jimmy Spencer Ford Thunderbird Bobby Allison Motorsports 328 Running
5 6 94 Terry Labonte Chevrolet Lumina Billy Hagan 328 Running
6 15 2 Rusty Wallace Pontiac Grand Prix Penske Racing South 328 Running
7 12 22 Sterling Marlin Ford Thunderbird Junior Johnson & Associates 327 Running
8 34 66 Jimmy Hensley Ford Thunderbird Cale Yarborough Motorsports 326 Running
9 22 55 Ted Musgrave Ford Thunderbird RaDiUs Racing 326 Running
10 32 18 Dale Jarrett Chevrolet Lumina Joe Gibbs Racing 326 Running
11 9 21 Morgan Shepherd Ford Thunderbird Wood Brothers Racing 325 Running
12 27 68 Bobby Hamilton Ford Thunderbird Tri-Star Motorsports 325 Running
13 29 33 Harry Gant Oldsmobile Cutlass Leo Jackson Motorsports 324 Running
14 25 30 Michael Waltrip Pontiac Grand Prix Bahari Racing 324 Running
15 10 10 Derrike Cope Chevrolet Lumina Whitcomb Racing 322 Running
16 20 42 Kyle Petty Pontiac Grand Prix Team SABCO 320 Engine
17 35 9 Chad Little Ford Thunderbird Melling Racing 320 Running
18 13 83 Lake Speed Ford Thunderbird Lake Speed 320 Running
19 40 23 Eddie Bierschwale Oldsmobile Cutlass Don Bierschwale 319 Running
20 38 88 Mike Wallace Ford Thunderbird Barry Owen 317 Running
21 37 52 Jimmy Means Ford Thunderbird Means Racing 317 Running
22 41 71 Dave Marcis Chevrolet Lumina Marcis Auto Racing 317 Running
23 24 17 Darrell Waltrip Chevrolet Lumina Darrell Waltrip Motorsports 307 Running
24 36 32 Jimmy Horton Chevrolet Lumina Active Motorsports 303 Running
25 16 5 Ricky Rudd Chevrolet Lumina Hendrick Motorsports 300 Engine
26 3 3 Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet Lumina Richard Childress Racing 299 Running
27 17 28 Davey Allison Ford Thunderbird Robert Yates Racing 285 Running
28 1 1 Rick Mast Oldsmobile Cutlass Richard Jackson Motorsports 253 Running
29 5 4 Ernie Irvan Chevrolet Lumina Morgan-McClure Motorsports 251 Crash FS
30 31 90 Bobby Hillin, Jr. Ford Thunderbird Junie Donlavey 235 Engine
31 21 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Lumina Hendrick Motorsports 164 Crash
32 4 6 Mark Martin Ford Thunderbird Roush Racing 160 Engine
33 28 57 Bob Schacht Oldsmobile Cutlass Doug Stringer 120 Ignition
34 26 45 Rich Bickle Ford Thunderbird Gene Isenhour 97 Crash
35 39 43 Richard Petty Pontiac Grand Prix Petty Enterprises 95 Running
36 23 25 Ken Schrader Chevrolet Lumina Hendrick Motorsports 94 Crash FS
37 7 8 Dick Trickle Ford Thunderbird Stavola Brothers Racing 94 Crash FS
38 30 16 Wally Dallenbach, Jr. Ford Thunderbird Roush Racing 94 Crash FS
39 33 49 Stanley Smith Chevrolet Lumina Stanley Smith 60 Engine
40 2 26 Brett Bodine Ford Thunderbird King Racing 1 Crash T1
41 19 41 Hut Stricklin Ford Thunderbird Larry Hedrick Motorsports 1 Crash T1


Race statistics

  • Time of race – 3:44:20
  • Average speed – 133.322 mph
  • Margin of victory – 8.06 seconds
  • Lead changes – 20 among 9 drivers
  • Total purse: US$785,787 (winner's share $93,600)

[19]

Selected awards

Final points standings

  1. Alan Kulwicki, 4078 points
  2. Bill Elliott, −10
  3. Davey Allison, −63
  4. Harry Gant, −123
  5. Kyle Petty, −133
  6. Mark Martin, −191
  7. Ricky Rudd, −343
  8. Terry Labonte, −404
  9. Darrell Waltrip, −419
  10. Sterling Marlin, −475

Legacy

This race is considered the transition from the old age of NASCAR to the new age. As veteran Richard Petty retired, future champion Jeff Gordon made his debut. Gordon is one of the most successful and popular drivers NASCAR's modern era. This is also the only race in NASCAR history to feature Petty, Gordon, and Dale Earnhardt taking the green flag together. All three are considered among the best NASCAR drivers of all time.[21] In total, nine former or future NASCAR Winston Cup champions drove in the race; Morgan Shepherd was a former Late Model Sportsman Series champion; and Mike Skinner (who failed to qualify) would eventually win the Truck Series championship – accounting for 11 NASCAR touring series champions entered in the event.

The race took place on the old "classic oval" configuration of Atlanta Motor Speedway. Later, Atlanta was re-configured to a quad-oval layout, and the start/finish line was moved to the old backstretch.

After coming up short in the championship battle, Bill Elliott's crew chief Tim Brewer was fired from Junior Johnson Motorsports. Had Elliott led the most laps, the season championship would have ended in a tie between Elliott and Kulwicki. Thus, Elliott would have been awarded the championship due to his having more wins during the season than Kulwicki (five to Kulwicki's two). This was perhaps Johnson's last hurrah as a team owner, as his cars never contended for a championship again. Despite Jimmy Spencer driving the team's #27 to two wins and Elliott recording a victory during the 1994 season, the team recorded more failure than success. Following the loss of his primary driver, Elliott, and his two sponsors, Budweiser and McDonald's, after the 1994 season, Johnson released Spencer and signed Lowe's to sponsor the #11 for one more season. He sold the operation to driver Brett Bodine in 1996 and retired.

The 1992 season was also considered Dale Earnhardt's worst season of his career, finishing outside of the top ten in points, with only one win all season. He led the race early, but pitted at a yellow and fell a lap down. After battling back to the lead lap, he brushed the wall and finished 26th.

Capping off the season with an 8th-place finish, Jimmy Hensley locked up the 1992 Rookie of the Year award. The rookie race for 1992 was mostly uncompetitive, however, as Hensley won by a large margin. All of the eligible rookies ran only partial schedules in 1992.

This was also the final race Dick Beaty served as the NASCAR director, as he retired after the 1992 season. It was also Eddie Bierschwale's final career start.

The race broke the existing ESPN auto racing television audience record, registering a 4.1 rating and 2.5 million households. It fell just short of ESPN's all-time auto racing rating record (4.2 rating/1.8 million households for the 1987 Winston 500).[22]

Alan Kulwicki stood as the last owner-driver to win a series championship until Tony Stewart accomplished the feat in 2011. Like in 1992, the championship came down to the final race and was decided by a tiebreaker when Stewart won the race to tie Carl Edwards for the points lead and was awarded the title by virtue of his five victories versus Edwards' single victory.

Tragedy strikes in 1993

Two of the principals in the championship chase that the Hooters 500 resolved would not survive the next season. On April 1, 1993, three days before the Food City 500 at Bristol, Alan Kulwicki was killed in a plane crash along with Hooters executives, while they were flying back from an appearance at a Hooters restaurant in Knoxville, Tennessee.

A little over three months later on July 12, 1993, Davey Allison was flying his helicopter to Talladega Superspeedway to watch his friend David Bonnett (Neil Bonnett's son) test a Busch Series car. While trying to land the helicopter in a closed-in section of the Talladega infield, Allison crashed and suffered grave head injuries. He died the next morning.

Both Kulwicki and Allison were in the top five of the Cup series points at the time of their deaths, with Allison recording a victory at Richmond. Allison and Kulwicki were also invited to participate in IROC XVII based on their performances, with Kulwicki automatically qualifying as the NASCAR Winston Cup champion, and at the time of their deaths, both drivers were in the top five in IROC points. Terry Labonte and Dale Earnhardt took over for the deceased drivers and Labonte's effort in the final IROC race gave the series title to Allison posthumously.

Fifteenth anniversary

To commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of the race, Jeff Gordon served as grand marshal and Richard Petty the honorary starter for the 2007 Pep Boys Auto 500 that took place on October 28, 2007.

Further reading

References

  1. ^ "Weather information for the 1992 Hooters 500". The Old Farmers' Almanac. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  2. ^ "The Day: 1992 Hooters 500". The Day. Season 1. Episode 3. 2011-09-17. 60 minutes in. SPEED. Archived from the original on August 17, 2011. Retrieved September 13, 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ a b c "Greatest NASCAR rivalries". CMT.com. Retrieved August 9, 2007.
  4. ^ Harris, Mike (November 16, 1992). "Petty had quite an interesting final day in Hooters 500 (Part 1)". The Indianapolis Star. p. 9. Retrieved April 9, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.open access
  5. ^ Harris, Mike (November 16, 1992). "Petty had quite an interesting final day in Hooters 500 (Part 2)". The Indianapolis Star. p. 11. Retrieved April 9, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.open access
  6. ^ Harris, Mike (November 16, 1992). "Kulwicki's second-place finish good for Winston Cup crown (Part 1)". The Indianapolis Star. p. 9. Retrieved April 9, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.open access
  7. ^ Harris, Mike (November 16, 1992). "Kulwicki's second-place finish good for Winston Cup crown (Part 2)". The Indianapolis Star. p. 11. Retrieved April 9, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.open access
  8. ^ "NASCAR Track List". NASCAR. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  9. ^ a b "NASCAR Tracks—The Atlanta Motor Speedway". Atlanta Motor Speedway. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved September 2, 2011.
  10. ^ Bill Elliott career statistics at Racing-Reference.info
  11. ^ Alan Kulwicki career statistics at Racing-Reference.info
  12. ^ a b McCarter, Mark (November 11, 2002). "10 years after: the points race isn't as tight as it was in 1992, but—like in '92—a new generation of drivers is taking over at the top". The Sporting News. Retrieved September 19, 2007.[dead link]
  13. ^ Glick, Shav (November 16, 1992). "A Curtain Call That's Fit for a King: Auto racing: Richard Petty is in wreck in his final event, then comes out for a one last time behind the wheel". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 21, 2015.
  14. ^ "Richard Petty crashes out of the 1992 Hooters 500". YouTube. 19crash84. Retrieved February 16, 2015.
  15. ^ a b c d "In Memory of Alan—Ten Years Gone (Revisited)". SpeedwayMedia.com. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved September 20, 2007.
  16. ^ a b Kallmann, Dave (August 29, 2011). "1992 Hooters 500: Need I say more?". Racing Beat. JSOnline. Retrieved November 2, 2011.
  17. ^ a b Patty Kay (March 30, 2003). "Alan Kulwicki: Always a Champion". Insider Racing News. Archived from the original on April 18, 2007. Retrieved July 4, 2007.
  18. ^ Racing summary Archived 2007-03-12 at the Wayback Machine at Racing-Reference.info, Retrieved September 19, 2007.
  19. ^ https://www.driveraverages.com/nascar/race.php?sked_id=1992029
  20. ^ The Official NASCAR 1993 Preview and Press Guide: 1992 Hooter's 500 Recap.
  21. ^ "NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers". History. NASCAR.com. Archived from the original on May 2, 2012. Retrieved September 7, 2011.
  22. ^ "ESPN set viewer record for final race of season" – Mike Harris, AP Motorsports Writer, Spartanburg Herald-Journal, Sunday December 6, 1992 (page D9).
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