Throwback: Darrell Waltrip’s Infamous Clash with Dale Earnhardt from the 1986 Richmond Race

Published 11/29/2020, 5:16 AM EST
DAYTONA BEACH, FL – FEBRUARY 4: Dale Earnhardt Sr. & Dale Earnhard, Jr. pose together at the raceway in Daytona Beach, Florida. The Earhnardts and Andy Pilgram earned second in the GTS category during the 2001 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. (Photo by ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images)


The 1986 Miller High Life 400 race at the Richmond Raceway had several talking points. Perhaps one could even consider that as the starting point of the rivalry between two racing greats, Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip.

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It was a race that the former seven-time champion led for most of the laps. However, following a controversial racing incident with Waltrip, which involved him clipping the latter’s right rear, he lost out on the lead as well.

Eventually, of course, Kyle Petty got declared as the winner of the race. Taking a trip down memory lane, Waltrip recollected how he could have avoided the accident, and what happened between Earnhardt and Junior Johnson post the conclusion of the race.

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Junior Johnson did not want to speak with Dale Earnhardt after the incident, says Waltrip

The ex-Hendrick Motorsports driver stated, “If I had to do it over again, I’d have just kept him there. I’d just have kept him outside of me, why did I have to get ahead of him? But anyway, maybe he was going to try and dive in behind me and he just mistimed it. He was pretty good at not doing things like that, usually, you think if something happened it was usually because he intended for it too.”

Naturally, at the time, Earnhardt felt it was not his fault heading into the final few laps. However, Waltrip’s team owner Junior Johnson was considerably angry with Earnhardt’s move on his driver.

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Waltrip added and said, “Junior Johnson, he wanted to hire Dale, Junior loved the way Dale raced.  See, Junior wanted you to be aggressive, but Junior wanted you to be fair. And when Dale came over to Junior and told him he didn’t mean to do that, Junior said, ‘Boy, get out of my face. I won’t talk to you anymore.’” concluded Waltrip.

Waltrip believes that that was the beginning of the end for Junior and Earnhardt

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Waltrip added and said, “And that really was the beginning of the end for Junior and Dale. It was a bad deal, you know, it shouldn’t have happened.”

Historic NASCAR stories like these do serve as a blast from the past about many things that do not happen in the modern day. And certainly back then, NASCAR was more about grit and determination than race strategies.

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Bhargav Gopal

927 articles

Hailing from Bengaluru, Bhargav is an F1 and NASCAR author for EssentiallySports. He is a huge fan of Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing. Bhargav also has an MBA in Sports Management from the Symbiosis School of Sports Sciences, Pune.

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