Posted: Tuesday, August 5th 2014 at 1:00pm
World Crown 300 Rewind: Waltrip wears the Crown in 1986
By Brandon Reed Staff
JEFFERSON, GA - The 1986 running of the World Crown 300 was one to remember.
Just three years into the running of the event at Georgia International Speedway (now known as Gresham Motorsports Park) in Jefferson, GA, it had established itself as one of the biggest prizes in short track racing. Dick Trickle had scored the inaugural victory in 1983, with Gary Balough winning in 1984 and Mike Eddy picking up the win in 1985.
One thing that each event had in common was that several top NASCAR Winston Cup drivers had come out to try to take top honors. Drivers such as Bobby and Donnie Allison, Neil Bonnett, Kyle Petty, Jody Ridley and Joe Ruttman had each tried to defeat the best short track drivers in the nation for the win.
In 1986, one of them finally did it.
Darrell Waltrip loved the high banked Jefferson speedplant. He had come out for several events since the reopening of the speedway in 1979, and had competed in two of the three previous World Crown 300s. His best finish was an 11th in 1983.
He had a lot riding on the 1986 event, as his own company, Dar-Wal, Inc., had promoted events at the track that year, and he had won two of them, including a NASCAR Busch Series (now Nationwide) event in May.
With a purse in excess of $62,000 on the line for the event, a field of 31 cars rolled off on Nov. 9, 1986 in search of victory lane and a chance to wear the crown. Alabama’s Mickey Gibbs led the field to the green flag.
One by one, the contenders would fall by the wayside. Third place starter Tim Richmond, piloting a car owned by Neil Bonnett, spun off turn four just 25 laps in, gathering up Gene Morgan and Mitch Fowler, putting all three out of the event.
Meanwhile, Gibbs put on a show for the fans, as he battled Georgia’s Ronnie Sanders for the lead through the first 100 laps until Gibbs’ engine went south, handing the lead to Sanders.
The Fayetteville, GA speedster would only have a few laps to enjoy the lead, as about 25 laps later, he would hit oil laid down by the blown engine of Larry Andrews in turn two, sending Sanders car out of control.
Sanders was able to return to action, but would not be a contender for the win.
Dave Mader III and Randy Porter were also contenders that saw their chances for victory go away with engine woes.
As the other competitors had issues, Waltrip piloted his Colonial Bread Chevy Camaro through the trouble, and would find himself out front.
As the laps wound down, the action on the track was far from over. Billy McGinnis blew an engine with about 50 laps left to run, hitting the third turn wall as flames shot out from under his racer. He was unhurt.
With 25 laps left to go, Rick Martin took the wildest ride of the day, as his car made hard contact into the first turn wall, sending his racer flipping through the air. Martin walked away uninjured.
In all, the caution flag flew 15 times and by the time the race approached the final laps, only 14 of the 31 starters were still on the track.
Waltrip cruised to the victory, with Larry Raines, the only other car on the lead lap, coming home second. Jeff Neal finished third, with Gary Bradberry and Bruce Battle rounding out the top five.
Waltrip beamed in victory lane as he wore the crown and held the trophy. He told reporters he wished some of the other drivers could have survived the 300 lap grind, but he was happy to take the win.
According to the early entry lists, there are two former winners of the World Crown set to run in the 28th annual event on Nov. 13. Preston Peltier is the defending winner of the event, while Russell Fleeman won the final World Crown held on the old Peach State Speedway layout in 2008, before the track was updated and rechristened Gresham Motorsports Park.
Both men will be looking to try to follow Darrell Waltrip into the record books and become the latest two-time winner of the World Crown.
For more information on the 31st annual World Crown 300, visit www.racegmp.com.
Georgia International Speedway - Jefferson, GA
World Crown 300 - Nov. 9, 1986
1. Darrell Waltrip
2. Larry Raines
3. Jeff Neal
4. Gary Bradberry
5. Bruce Battle
6. Randy Crouch
7. Tommy Ruff
8. Sam Parsons
9. Russell Nelson
10. Ronnie Sanders
11. Keith Ward
12. Billy McGinnis
13. Rick Martin
14. Marty Ward
15. Larry Wilkerson
16. Doyle Bettis
17. Dave Mader III
18. Al Kuhn
19. Larry Harris
20. Larry Lancaster
21. Stanley Smith
22. Larry Andrews
23. Clay Brown
24. David Green Jr
25. Randy Porter
26. Mickey Gibbs
27. Bobby Gill
28. Tim Richmond
29. Mitch Fowler
30. Gene Morgan
31. Sonny Chaplin
Link: Gresham Motorsports Park
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