History The Earnhardt Connection

1987 Winston

Pass in the grassPerhaps the most famous, or perhaps infamous Winston was the 1987 event.  The format that year had been changed to try to stir things up a little.  Rather than a single race, the Winston consisted of three segments, the first 75 laps long, the second 50, and the final a ten lap dash for the cash.

Among the 20 drivers in that years event, was Tim Richmond.  Richmond had missed the beginning of the 1987 season, due a mysterious flu-like ailment, and was using the Winston to see if he was ready to return to combat before trying a full points race.

Bill Elliott thumbed his nose at Humpy's rule changes, by going out and flat dominating the first two segments of the race.  The cars lined up for the ten lap Shootout with Elliott on the pole and Geoff Bodine on the outside pole.  Richmond was lined up behind Elliott, and Earnhardt was right on Bodine's rear bumper as the green flag dropped.

Bodine knew his only chance at a win came at getting a jump on Elliott and beating him to the first corner.  Geoff managed to nose ahead of Bill, and Earnhardt decided he was going to force his way past both of them.  Bodine dove low and ran Bill onto the apron.  Elliott's car got loose and made contact with Bodine's rear bumper, sending him spinning.  Earnhardt made a nifty move right through the middle of the mess and grabbed the lead.

The caution flag for Bodine's spin bunched up the pack to try it again, and Elliott and Earnhardt engaged in one of the most furious battles our sport has ever seen.  Elliott had the faster car, but Earnhardt was making his Chevy awfully wide to keep Bill from getting by.  The two cars made contact numerous times, though whose fault that was depends on which driver's shirt you wore to the track that day.

With seven laps to go Elliott was on the outside of Dale trying to bull his way past.  Heavy contact was made, and Earnhardt was sent flying down the track and across the grass.  Dale never even lifted off the throttle and charged back onto the track without even surrendering the lead.

But Dale wasn't too happy about the infamous "Pass on the grass".   On the back straight Dale got out of the throttle.  Sensing his rival might be losing a tire, Elliott went high to make the pass.  As Elliott drew along side Earnhardt cut the wheel hard right and sent Bill into the wall.  A lap later Bill lost a tire and he lost a lap in the pits.

But the fireworks weren't over. The normally laid back Georgian driver was so angry, Elliott charged back onto the track and rammed into Earnhardt's car.  Geoff Bodine thought that was a fine idea, and rammed the Wrangler entry as well.  All three drivers wound up getting fined for their actions.


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