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All Kinds of Wrecks Mar Darlington Race
By Jan Bazen

While it was great to see familiar faces in the front lineup for the TranSouth 400 at Darlington Speedway this weekend, the event was marred by some frightening accidents.
Names starting at the front were Ricky Craven on the pole and Jeff Gordon on the outside, and a welcomed sight to see Steve Park qualify 4th on his first race back this season. Rookies Ryan Newman and Jimmy Johnson continue to showcase their talent at the front of the pack as well. While it was disappointing to see Tony Stewart qualify 35th and Sterling Marlin start at the back of the pack after an engine change, the race at Darlington still looked to provide the fans with some exciting racing.

I am sure I was not the only one watching the race to hold their breath in fear and groan in disappointment Steve Park careened into the wall on lap 38 after trying to pass Stacy Compton's #14 Conseco car. Relieved that no serious injuries occurred in Sunday’s accident, it was disappointing to see Park out of winning contention after running so well in his first race back since last year. After much time in the garage area working on the Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Park did return to finish the race and was credited with completing 133 laps. At least he was able to finish what he started.

The next serious racing accident occurred on lap 122 when Buckshot Jones swerved in turn 2 and Tony Stewart was unable to prevent the #20 Home Depot Pontiac from making contact with the #44 Georgia-Pacific Dodge. Once again fans watched in horror as Stewart hit the wall then slid back down the track being smacked in the right side again by Jimmy Spencer who was hit from behind by Ken Schrader. In the end, 11 cars were involved in the accident. Ken Schrader was the first out of his car, ran over to Stewart’s car then began to frantically motion for assistance for Tony Stewart. Images of last year’s season opener at Daytona went through many a mind as we watched anxiously for signs that Stewart was alive and OK. Stewart was eventually removed from the car, placed on a stretcher and flown by helicopter to nearby Florence hospital for x-rays. Schrader stated that though Stewart was dazed, he was alert and responsive after being removed from the car. Reports were eventually released that Stewart had no serious injuries, but was complaining of low back pain and tingling in his lower extremities and would be held overnight in the hospital for observation.
The Stewart-Jones accident also cost Jeff Gordon the race after the #24 Dupont Chevrolet Monte Carlo damaged the right front grill after grazing Stewart’s car coming through the wrecked field. The #24 pit crew was able to get Gordon back into the race with a lot of tape holding the right front together on the car and Gordon finished 9th in the event.

In the end, Sterling Marlin in his #40 Coors Light Dodge won the TranSouth 400 with Elliott Sadler coming in second, and Kevin Harvick in third. The rest of the top ten were Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Ryan Newman, Jimmy Johnson, Rust Wallace, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, and Bill Elliott, respectively.

We can always depend on Fox announcer Darrell Waltrip to give up colorful and original commentary during any race he covers. This week’s Waltrip term is “whup-de-do’s” which is when a car bounces around. Waltrip also said that after a wreck like what occurred in lap 122, the remaining drivers have to “ work with (their) hands and not (their) mouths”….one has to wonder with Waltrip’s mouth, if he knows of what he speaks?

In conclusion to today’s article, I think a lot of questions have been answered concerning Jeff Gordon’s recent racing woes when it was announced that his wife, Brooke, filed for divorce last week. Gordon was quoted as saying that his focus this season has strictly been on the #24 race team, but everyone knows that when personal problems of this magnitude occur, that the effects spill over to all aspects of one’s life. Our prayers go out to the Gordon household and I can only hope that all media will give the Gordon’s the privacy they deserve during this difficult time.

Next weekend takes us to Bristol, Tennessee for the Food City 500. We know that Bristol always brings us exciting racing. Good luck to all the teams in preparation for this racing event.

Jan is an RN who lives on the North Carolina coast with her husband, three children and her dog. When not watching or reading about NASCAR, she enjoys fishing...any kind of fishing. She enjoys gardening and reading. Although Jan is new to the sport of NASCAR, she was exposed to NASCAR from the early, tender age of 5 by her older brother, Fred, who has always been a diehard NASCAR fan. Jan welcomes any comments or opposing views. You can contact her by clicking on the North Carolina tag above.

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