Thursday, August 4, 2016

8/12/90: Greg Sacks wrecks hard at The Glen, Rick Ware makes lone Cup start

SOURCE: ESPN
On August 12, 1990, Greg Sacks picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Winston Cup career in the Budweiser at the Glen at Watkins Glen International when his #18 Ultra Slim Fast Chevrolet fell out in a single-car crash after 14 of 90 laps.

The finish, which came in Sacks’ 122nd series start, was his first of the season and first in Cup since August 21, 1988, when his unsponsored #50 Dingman Brothers Racing Pontiac had ignition failure after 21 laps of the Champion Spark Plug 400 at Michigan.

The career of Greg Sacks, and how he acquired his ride in the Ultra Slim Fast Chevrolet, was the subject of my 1990 Pepsi 400 at Daytona piece last month.  Driving a research and development #10 Chevrolet for DiGard Racing, Sacks, a former owner-driver, pulled off one of the biggest upsets in NASCAR history by dominating the 1985 Firecracker 400.  Following the close of DiGard, Sacks traveled between a number of single-car operations, including the Dingman Brothers, Baker-Schiff Racing, and Tom Winkle.

In 1989, when Paramount Pictures began production on “Days of Thunder,” Sacks was tabbed as both stunt driver and consultant, joining Bobby Hamilton, Tommy Ellis, and others.  In addition to closed-set work away from the crowds, Sacks made three starts driving the #46 City Chevrolet in place of Tom Cruise’s character Cole Trickle.  The race-ready cars, built by Hendrick Motorsports, turned in a number of strong runs with Sacks, who finished 2nd to Ken Schrader in the 1990 Busch Clash (now the Sprint Unlimited) then qualified 7th at Darlington.  At Talladega that spring, Hendrick decided to make this “movie team” permanent, and the #18 Ultra Slim Fast Chevrolet Lumina was born.

Sacks continued to impress, finishing a close 2nd behind Dale Earnhardt at Talladega, 7th at Pocono, then won the pole for the aforementioned Pepsi 400 at Daytona.  Unfortunately, just a few days after “Thunder’s” release, Sacks along with Richard Petty and Derrike Cope triggered a grinding 23-car wreck on Lap 2, allowing Earnhardt to walk to another restrictor-plate victory.  Following a 33rd in his return to Pocono and a disappointing 18th at Talladega, Sacks came to Watkins Glen for his first-ever start on his home track.

Sacks started 24th for the 90-lap race, and most importantly avoided trouble that weekend.  The Thursday before the race, a grinding three-car wreck in practice collected Mark Martin, Dick Trickle, and West coast regular Troy Beebe, destroying all three cars.  Beebe, knocked unconscious in the impact, had to be cut from his #93 Taco Bell Buick and was treated in the hospital for a concussion.  Trickle and Martin escaped with relatively minor injuries - though Trickle later handed over the controls to road racer Dorsey Schroeder - and qualified their backup cars 33rd and 3rd.  Beebe failed to qualify.

40th on the grid belonged to the #98 P&C Chevrolet of two-time ASA champion Butch Miller.  Miller, in his first season with car owner Travis Carter, attempted the most races of any of his seven Cup years - 23 of 29 - and two rounds prior earned a career-best 8th at Pocono.

Around Lap 5, 14th-place starter Kyle Petty made an unscheduled stop in his #42 Peak Antifreeze Pontiac punctured a left-rear tire and came in for new left-side tires.  Next to fall to the rear on Lap 9 was Ernie Irvan, who started 22nd and pitted the #4 Kodak Chevrolet for “a ratchet that turned loose.”  Lap 10 saw Ricky Rudd and Geoffrey Bodine spin in Turn 1.  However, the field was so strung out early in the event that none of these drivers spent much if any time in 40th place.

Sacks, meanwhile, made his own first stop for a cut tire on Lap 13, just as race leaders Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin streaked past into Turn 1.  Two laps later, as he led Dale Jarrett and Bill Elliott into Turn 5, Sacks’ car wobbled, then slid off-course and into the tire barriers.  Sacks climbed from the car uninjured, but his #18 suffered heavy damage to the nose and left side, enough to keep him out for the rest of the day.

39th went to owner-driver Jimmy “Smut” Means, whose powder-blue #52 Alka-Seltzer Pontiac broke the transmission after 33 laps.  38th went to ARCA driver John Alexander, who made his first - and only - Cup start.  Alexander’s ARCA car owner was Bob Schacht, with whom he finished a career-best 7th at Pocono.  On this day, the New York driver climbed aboard a #04 Ford for Charles Meacham, whose son John would drive in three Cup races over the next year.  37th went to SCCA road racer Oma Kimbrough, who made his second of three Cup starts for Jim Rosenblum’s Linro Motorsports - all at The Glen, and all DNFs.

Rick Ware at The Glen, 1990
SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Rounding out the Bottom Five was another driver who’d made his Cup debut: 29-year-old Rick Ware.  Back in 1990, the current NASCAR XFINITY Series team owner had been competing on road courses for years, running in both IMSA and Trans-Am, including the 24 Hours of Daytona.  His exposure to NASCAR began with the Grand-American Series companion events at the old Riverside International Raceway outside Los Angeles, where in 1983 he finished 3rd.  He moved back east and looked to try other forms of motorsports.  Then the deal to drive the #22 Otter Pops Pontiac came along.

“[T]he team owner was Buddy Baker,” said Ware during an interview at Sonoma in June, “22 was Buddy Baker’s team and Bobby Jones was running it for him, and that deal came about - Rick Mast was driving full time for him but there was a race at South Boston in the Busch car and Mast, who hadn’t done a lot of road courses, went and did the Busch car, so it gave me an opportunity to come in and do the road course deal.”

Prior to 1991, Cup Series teams ran bias-ply tires at Sonoma and Watkins Glen in place of the current radials.  The cheaper, more flexible tires were fast, but prone to flats, adding to the dangers of stock car racing’s fastest road course.  “We ran without the chicane and we actually turned the second-fastest trap speed as far as miles per hour on the backstretch,” said Ware.  “But it was dangerous.  The year after I did, that’s the year (J.D. McDuffie) died. . .I’m not sure if the racing got any better, but as the speeds went up, you needed to have the radial tires.”

Ware’s transition from sports car racing to NASCAR proved a challenge.  “Just that you think you’re fast until you go and run with these guys - you realize what fast really is, man.  These guys are the best guys in the world.”  Ware ran off-course in Turn 1 on Lap 10 and recovered, but was later the victim of brake issues.

Ware never made another Cup start, but has been a fixture in the series ever since.  One of the team’s greatest performances came at Road America in 2014, where Kevin O’Connell nearly earned the team its first XFINITY Series win.  “Kevin O’Connell, we finished 3rd, had a shot of winning it, that was a great race last lap, right down to the wire with Brendan Gaughan, and Tagliani passed us on the last tun of the last lap for 3rd and yeah, that was a really good run.  That was one of our highlights and we had a lot of - we finished 6th at Talladega, 7th and 9th at Daytona, you know, we’ve had some good runs on and off.  It’s tough to do on a regular basis if you don’t have the funding.  So, some of the races we can, you know, put a lot of effort into certain races to run good.”

This weekend at Watkins Glen, Ware has two cars entered in the XFINITY Series race at Watkins Glen.  The #25 will be driven by his 20-year-old son Cody, who attempted his own Cup debut at Sonoma in June.

After the 1990 Budweiser at the Glen, Greg Sacks relieved teammate Darrell Waltrip for three races in the #17 Tide Chevrolet.  Waltrip, injured during the Pepsi 400 weekend in a terrible practice crash with Dave Marcis, didn’t return until Richmond in September.  Sacks rounded out the year with Hendrick, then was released at year’s end.  From 1991 through 2005, Sacks would drive for 17 different Cup Series owners - including himself - and remained on a partial schedule.  A terrible crash at Texas in 1998 all but ended his career, though he made five more races in his own equipment and made an XFINITY Series start at Daytona in 2010.  Sacks’ 263rd and final Cup start came at Pocono on July 24, 2005, where his #13 Dodge lost the brakes after 5 laps and finished last.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #18 in a Cup Series race since November 6, 1983, when Joe Booher’s #18 Booher Farms Buick lost the engine after 2 laps of the Atlanta Journal 500 at Atlanta.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #18-Greg Sacks / 14 laps / crash
39) #52-Jimmy Means / 33 laps / transmission
38) #04-John Alexander / 35 laps / oil leak
37) #13-Oma Kimbrough / 40 laps / oil leak
36) #22-Rick Ware / 42 laps / brakes

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