GRR

On this day in... 1992

15th November 2017
Henry Hope-Frost

The final round of the 29-race NASCAR Winston Cup season of 1992 that took place 25 years ago today (November 25th) was one of the closest and most emotionally charged title run-ins in US stockcar racing’s long history.

Not only were three drivers, Ford trio Davey Allison, Bill Elliott and Alan Kulwicki, all in with a shout of landing the drivers’ title, Elliott for the second time, but NASCAR’s greatest champion and biggest hero Richard Petty was making his 1184th and final start in the sport’s top class. The King’s farewell race was a very big deal, and the 200-time race winner and seven-time champion wanted to go out in style. 

For Allison, Elliott and Kulwicki, the pressure was on, particularly for privateer Kulwicki up against the might of super-teams Yates Racing (Allison) and Junior Johnson (Elliott). He sat just 30 points behind leader Allison and 10 ahead of Elliott coming into the Atlanta finale.

With Allison starting the race 17th, Elliott 11th and Kulwicki 14th, strategy and tactics would come into play for the championship protagonists in the three-and-three-quarter-hour enduro that was played out in front of more than 160,000 fans.

Elliott was the first of the three to lead the race, hitting the front in the Budweiser Ford Thunderbird on lap 62. Kulwicki was right with him, though, and got his Hooters Thunderbird to the front 10 laps later. The two engaged in a thrilling dogfight, swapping the lead many times.

Allison maintained a presence in the lead battle, taking top spot for five laps on the 86th tour.


Commentators, lap charters and statisticians sweated over who was in the best position to land the coveted Winston Cup, thanks to the drivers’ relative positions and the number of laps led (which was rewarded by additional points) as the race wore on.

Allison soon ruled himself out of title contention by hitting the wall. His Yates Ford was eventually repaired and he came back out to finish a valiant 27th, cementing third in the points race to match his 1991 position. 

Drama struck the #43 STP Pontiac of Richard Petty, too. A collision (caught on the onboard camera) caused an engine fire, with Petty pulling off and leaping from the burning car. His Petty Enterprises crew got the back out and he was able to finish the race, albeit many laps down, in 35th place. 

The tension in the final laps as Elliott held his nerve, less than 10 seconds ahead of pursuer Kulwicki, was palpable. Permutations were furiously calculated as onlookers debated who’d led the most laps before feeling confident enough to broadcast it.

In the end, Elliott took his fifth win of the year – his first since a four-race rout early in the year – with Kulwicki following him home. Crucially, Kulwicki had led 103 laps to Elliott’s 102, which, combined with the points for second place, was enough to give him his maiden title, by just 10 points.


This superb video charts that amazing day in Georgia, with testimonials from many of the drivers, as well as the team bosses and crew chiefs of the leading runners. Our favourite bit has to be Kulwicki combing his hair after taking off his helmet in Victory Lane!

 

The tragic twist to the 1992 season shootout was that both Allison and Kulwicki lost their lives in aircraft crashes, Allison aged 32 in a helicopter, Kulwicki aged 38 in a private plane, within a few months of each other in the first half of 1993.

 

Hooters 500, 1992

1. Bill Elliott (USA) – Junior Johnson (Budweiser) Ford Thunderbird, 328 laps

2. Alan Kulwicki (USA) – Alan Kulwicki (Hooters) Ford Thunderbird, +8.06s

3. Geoff Bodine (USA) – Bud Moore (Motorcraft) Ford Thunderbird, 328 laps

4. Jimmy Spencer (USA) – Bobby Allison (Raybestos) Ford Thunderbird, 328 laps

5. Terry Labonte (USA) – Billy Hagan (Sunoco) Chevrolet Lumina, 328 laps

6. Rusty Wallace (USA) – Roger Penske (Miller) Pontiac Grand Prix, 328 laps

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