DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Darrell Waltrip figured his first win in the Mountain Dew Southern 500 would require special circumstances.
The 45 year-old NASCAR Winston Cup driver was proven right Sunday.
Waltrip was leading the field of the NASCAR Winston Cup race when it wasred-flagged because of rain on the 298th lap. One hour and 51 minutes later, the race was called official and Waltrip had his first Southern 500 victory after 19 attempts.
And it didn't make any difference to the driver from Franklin, Tenn. that he only ran 407 laps. Waltrip will take the checkered flag and cherish the victory, thank you very much.
'I wanted to win the Southern 500 because it means a lot,' said Waltrip, who earned his 84th career victory to move into a tie with Bobby Allison for third place on NASCAR's all-time list.
'I'm 45 years old and I will only run five more Southern 500s,' said Waltrip after capturing his second straight race.
'I don't care if it has an asterisk beside it, I won the sucker. It's been on my mind ever since I won the Daytona 500 in 1989.'
Waltrip joins Richard Petty, David Pearson, Buddy Baker and Bobby Allison as the only drivers to win the Daytona 500, Winston 500, Coca- Cola 600 and Southern 500 in their careers.
Davey Allison, who fell short in his bid to win three of NASCAR's Big Four races in one season -- which would have earned him $1 million -- finished fifth after holding three separate leads for 72 laps. The winner of this season's Daytona 500 and Winston 500 will collect $100, 000 in consolation money.
Waltrip averaged 129.114 miles an hour around the 1.366-mile Darlington Raceway and finished ahead of Mark Martin, Bill Elliott, Brett Bodine and Allison.
'I don't believe anybody that has won 84 races would have felt real good about the 83 others if he hadn't won the Southern 500 to go along with that many victories,' Waltrip said. 'Daytona was critical for me to win. I've won Charlotte so many times I can't remember. But to come here and finally win is very gratifying to come back here and get over that hurdle.'
Waltrip won his first Southern 500 by taking advantage of the darkening clouds and did not pit as the rains approached. Although Mark Martin's Ford Thunderbird was the strongest car at the end of the race, Martin had to pit for fuel and four new tires on the 289th lap. Waltrip inherited the lead on the 293rd lap and remained there when the race was called.
Waltrip said the rain wasn't his only ally. Some clever fuel strategy also paid off.
'Those other guys saw the rain coming, but they pitted anyway,' Waltrip said. 'That is why I don't feel like I have to make any excuses to win the race. Everybody had the same opportunity.
'This win was very similar to what Harry Gant did at Michigan (the Champion Spark Plug 400 on Aug. 16).
'I wasn't running fast enough at the time to just out and out win the race. I had to use strategy. When you aren't fighting for the lead, you can think differently. You are in the gambling position.'
Waltrip's gamble paid off with a $66,030 first-place check. But during the rain delay, Waltrip mugged with the crowd on pit road, performing his own version of a rain dance.
'That's the best rain dance I've ever done,' Waltrip said. 'That's the best that leg has felt in a couple of years.
'When it started raining and we were leading the thing, I thought, 'I can't be that lucky. It probably won't rain that long. We'll go back and pit and see what happens.' I have to give credit to the man upstairs today because it rained and we were up front.'
Waltrip led the race just one time for only six laps, but they were the six most critical laps of event.