Throwback Thursday Theater – Waltrip Comes Out on Top at Martinsville

By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor

A fixture on the NASCAR schedule since 1949, Martinsville Speedway has provided numerous memorable moments over the years and in this week’s edition of “Throwback Thursday Theater”, we’ll take a step back three decades to the running of the 1987 Goody’s 500 and the wild finish that would follow.

Geoff Bodine would start the 500 lap event on the pole and held onto the point for the first 71 laps before ceding the lead over to Darrell Waltrip. Waltrip would lead 21 of the next 22 laps before Terry Labonte took over at lap 94 and set sail out front.

From that point on, Labonte, Earnhardt, and Waltrip would swap the lead amongst the three of them as the trio would lead 406 of the 407 remaining laps in the race.

Earnhardt held a half-lap lead over Labonte when Ken Schrader blew a tire and spun on lap 494, which also collected Bobby Allison.

As Earnhardt, Labonte, and Waltrip were the only three cars on the lead lap, they made their way down pit road for their final pit stops before lining up for the restart with three laps to go.

The three drivers held their positions, running bumper to bumper to bumper, until the white flag flew when it became a mad scramble for the lead and the win. Labonte tried to get past Earnhardt on the backstretch, but caught a piece of the wall instead. The contact with the wall would allow Waltrip to make a move on Labonte as they approached Turn 3, where all hell would break loose.

As the three drivers entered Turn 3, Waltrip made contact with Labonte at about the same time that Labonte made contact with Earnhardt’s car, which caused Labonte and Earnhardt to spin and for Waltrip to be able to scoot by on the inside with a clear path to the checkered flag.

The win broke a 27-race winless streak for Waltrip and also provided his first win for Hendrick Motorsports and eight career win at Martinsville.

“I had run well all day, but at the end there, we were behind because we made out final pit stop early and Earnhardt stayed out until the very last minute and then he pitted with about 20-odd laps to go. Well, that put me back in the same lap with him and he and Terry and I were the only three cars on the lead lap. Lo and behold, there’s a caution flag with about 10 laps to go. We get closed up, get four new tires on the car, and we’re going to go racing,” said Waltrip.

“Dale was leading, Terry was second, I was third, and we came down on the last lap and Terry tried to get by Dale on the outside and Dale pinched Terry up in the wall. They got a little sideways and when they did, I was coming off of (Turn) 2, and I got down underneath Terry going into (Turn) 3. Terry was mad at Dale, and I’m convinced this is the way it was. Terry was going to go down and give Dale a little tap because Dale tried to put him in the wall. He went into the turn about a mile over his head. I was underneath him. I bumped him, he hit Dale, they went up the race track and I came off the corner and won the race.”

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.