The Callahan Report: Burton Wins as Mother Nature Tames Darlington
21 March 1999
By Terry Callahan
DARLINGTON, SC: When the TranSouth 400 ended Sunday, the
sun wasn't shining. Mother nature certainly was. She shined the
brightest on Jeff Burton.
The Auto Channel
After crashing while leading the race, Jeff Burton limped around the Darlington Speedway with his right front wheel shooting sparks. Under dark and stormy skies, Burton stayed on the track behind the pace car. The skies opened and drenched the track. The race was over. Burton had earned his second win of the 1999 Winston Cup season in a junked race car.
"I was just praying for more rain. I needed the rain because it (the car) was killed," said Burton. "We're were either going to win or finish dead last."
The TranSouth 400 was already behind schedule. The race was stopped for nearly three hours when rains drowned the track early in the afternoon, just after the start of the race. The second time the rains fell, NASCAR officials had no choice. They had to end the race when it became apparent that the track could not be dried before dark.
Things were going smoothly for Burton until lap 162 of 293 scheduled laps. It was then that Ernie Irvan spun coming off the fourth turn. Burton slowed and tried to turn to the inside of the track. His car wouldn't respond and he went hard into the wall on the front straight. As he passed the start-finish line, the yellow flag was waving.
"I saw the wreck," Burton said. "I thought all I had to do was turn down. But it went straight, right into the wall." Burton continued, "I wouldn't say Darlington owed us one. In fact, after today, I think we're one up on them."
While Burton was happy with the rain storm, Jeremy Mayfield was hoping for more racing action. Mayfield was strong and challenging Burton throughout the race. Mayfield, who won his first Winston Cup race at Pocono last season, was stronger than he had been all season.
"I was praying the rain would stop," said Mayfield. "It's a shame, because' we had a great car."
Several other cars were caught in the end-of-the-race accident. Kenny Irwin suffered the most damage as he hit the inside wall hard, destroying his Texaco Havoline Ford Taurus. One of Burton's closest challengers in the race was also caught in the incident. Jeff Gordon's car suffered extensive damage when he hit a spinning Jerry Nadeau. Both Gordon and Burton were glad to see the rain.
"I'm glad it rained, because we never could have finished third," said Gordon.
Burton, Mayfield and Gordon were the class of the field. They were all very closely matched. In the rain-shortened event, Burton led 59 laps. Gordon led 50 laps while Mayfield led a total of 48 laps.
The race had 13 lead changes among 8 different drivers. Burton, Mayfield and Gordon swapped the lead six times. There were three caution periods for 18 laps. Burton's average speed for the race distance was 121.294 mph. Burton earned $161,900 for his victory. More importantly, he grabbed the Winston Cup points lead by seven points over the defending champion, Jeff Gordon.