March 21 in NASCAR History: Jeff Burton wrecks in rain, wins at Darlington
If it were any other race, Jeff Burton would not have won.
But on March 21, 1999, the TranSouth Financial 400 at Darlington Raceway did not end like any other race.
Burton, the future NBC Sports analyst, was in the middle of leading a 45-lap stint around the “Lady in Black” when Mother Nature butted in.
With rain starting to come down on the 1.366-mile track, a wreck began on the frontstretch on Lap 162. As cars scattered and checked up, Burton ran into the back of Jerry Nadeau and then smacked the outside wall.
His No. 99 Exide Ford’s right side was crumpled, the right-front tire no longer straight.
For two more laps, Burton led the field under caution as the rain increased into a downpour and brought out the red flag.
“I saw the wreck and I got slowed down, but there must have been something on the race track because I slowed down and it just kept going straight and hit the wall pretty hard,” Burton told ESPN. “It’s torn all to heck. ... It was getting so dark you couldn’t see. ... If it doesn’t (keep) raining we’ll finish last, if it does rain we’ll win.”
Eventually, NASCAR called the race.
It gave Burton his seventh Cup win and his second of six victories that season, including completing a Darlington sweep in the Southern 500 in September, which was also shortened by rain.
Also on this date:
1976: David Pearson erased a one-lap deficit and led the final 31 laps to beat Benny Parsons at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
1982: With rain about to be unleashed on Atlanta, Darrell Waltrip passed Richard Petty in the final turn on the last green-flag lap and beat Petty to the finish line by two inches according to NASCAR officials (from “40 Years of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era”). After waiting an hour, the field returned to the track for twelve laps under caution before the race was called, giving Waltrip a win in the Coca-Cola 500.