Why Celebrating Ricky Road’s Hot Victory in Martinsville in ’98 Was One of the All Time

During the past quarter century for NASCAR, few victory lane celebrations could match those held at Martinsville Speedway on September 27, 1998.

This is a good thing.

Ricky Rod He won the NAPA 500, driving the last 96 laps and overtaking Jeff Gordon Half a second at the end. The interwoven story of this win is that it came on one of the most oppressive days of weather in the modern era of NASCAR. Afternoon race temperatures reached the mid-90s, meaning drivers in the racing car’s tight confines were grappling with numbers closer to 140 degrees.

While certainly uncomfortable for everyone in the field that day, the heat was generally acceptable for drivers using some form of cooling system. Rod’s Ford Taurus was similarly equipped, but the system failed on lap 5, and Rod knew he was in trouble with a painful 495 lap.

As the race progressed, the temperature inside the car worsened, and Rudd told crew chief Bill Engel to find a relief driver, saying he doubted his ability to finish the race. Hut Stricklin was called into Rudd’s pit and outfitted and helmeted, he was ready to go.

1998 NASCAR Coca-Cola 600

Ricky Roode beat Martinsville and finished 22nd in the 1998 Cup Final.

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In most circumstances, Rod could have made a smart decision to dig while alerting and climb out of the car. The conditions were such that heat exhaustion was a stark reality. The water spray on Zi Rod while stopping in a pit didn’t help burn his back.

But here was the “problem”…Road’s car was so good he didn’t want to leave it. He didn’t win a race that season, and his 15-year streak of at least one victory was in jeopardy.

The race continued. While stopping in the pit, crew members placed small bags of ice inside Rudd’s suit in an attempt to negate some of the heat.

Finally, it’s over. Rod was helped out of the car at Victory Pass. Near the collapse, he rested on the floor of Victory Passage and was given oxygen and intravenous fluids. He took part in a TV interview with the winner on his back, and it’s clear he’s still struggling.

Ricky Road NASCAR Tide Years

Rod Ford led on a self-owned team in the NASCAR Cup Series from 1994 until 1999.

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Rod sustained second-degree burns to his back and buttocks. He recovered quickly, but it was a day he and those who helped him get through the race will remember for years to come.

The heat inside racing cars is generally not seen as a major problem these days. Drivers race with so-called cool helmets, jerseys and cockpit fans that make the driver’s space livable, but it became a theme during the development of the next-generation car when early tests showed the car’s interior would be more edgy than the car. previous model. Changes, including the windshield air duct and vents in the rear window, have improved the situation.

“However, the right conditions and the right car can keep you excited,” said Chase Elliott.

“The racing at COTA (March 27) was so much fun,” Joey Logano She said. “But the windshield duct helps a lot, and the vents are in the back windshield. Darlington can be nasty, and usually Indy is brutal, but with cool chests and cool shirts you’ll get used to it.”

Michael McDowell said the teams have been fortunate that race day temperatures have been generally mild so far this season, but he is already targeting the summer races in Daytona Beach and Atlanta as days that could be tough and warm. They are not likely to be worse than what McDowell called his worst “hot” race – August 2008 at the Pocono Raceway.

He said, “Maybe it was only 85 degrees, but there was a break in the rain and then the humidity was really high. Everything was locked in tomorrow’s car, and it was hot. I was a beginner too, and I wasn’t used to 500-mile races. I’m like, “I don’t know how these guys do it.” It was a mental challenge, for sure.”

Over the years, some of the most extreme races from a heat standpoint have been recorded at Dover Motor Speedway, where 500-mile races routinely span more than four hours. Sometimes after four hours.

“Races at Dover in the 1970s could take five hours,” former crew chief Paddy Parrott said. “They had one bathroom in the garage area. It was so small you could barely reach it, and a few minutes later the race drivers were already in the bathrooms. They were actually lying on the floor, half-naked or naked. Some of them couldn’t lift their arms to shower. I told someone, when Cal Yarborough is lying on the floor and can’t get up, it’s a tough racetrack.”

The cockpit heat resistance has resulted in a number of experiments over the years.

“Drivers put insulating heels on their shoes,” Parrott said. “I’ve often heard it said that the floorboards got so hot that water could boil on them. Bobby Isaac was our chauffeur when I worked with Harry Hyde, and I remember him getting out of a car that looked like pickled beets. I got some fiberboards and used a knife and a razor blade and clipped them to fit all around the floorboard. I put them together like a puzzle. Bobby was amazed, but it didn’t work in the end due to the possibility of a fire.

“When the cool suits came out, they were working fine but some drivers didn’t use them because if they failed during the race it would be a double problem.”

Before technical advances lowered the heat factor in the driver’s area, some drivers simply accepted the fact that race day was going to be brutally hot and tried to prepare for it by putting their bodies in a strange kind of preparation. Some from the Charlotte area might drive to a race in Darlington, for example, with all the windows raised and the car’s heat setting turned to maximum, creating an environment similar to race day conditions.

We call it race equality.


Check out the race below. At the very least, fast forward to the 3:40:30 mark of the video to see Rudd’s unusual post-win press conference.

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