Darrell Waltrip easily won the Winston Cup yesterday after a broken part worth $7 cost Bill Elliott his chance at the cup and its $440,000.
Waltrip finished seventh in the Winston Western 500 at Riverside, Calif., the finale of the NASCAR series, and ended the season with 4,292 points. Elliott had 4,191, so Waltrip got the $440,000 for his third such title since 1981.
Elliott started the day only 20 points behind. But his car lost its first two gears on the sixth lap, less than 10 minutes into the race. After he steered slowly into the pit area, he tugged at his gear shift while his crew examined the underbelly of his red Ford. Finally, he dejectedly took his car to the garage for a new shift pin. When he got back on the track, Waltrip was 23 laps and 30 minutes ahead.
Elliott lost another lap when he ran out of gas and coasted back to the pits, but by then the title was moot; Waltrip cinched it on the 99th lap of the 119-lapper. Elliott finished 31st.
"I just ran like he was still in there," Waltrip, 38, said.
Elliott, 30, got $125,000 for finishing second in the standings. He had earned more than $2 million by winning 11 races this season. Waltrip won only three but drove more consistently in the 28-race season.
The shift pin, about four inches long, had been supplied by a company in Franklin, Tenn., which is Waltrip's hometown.
Ricky Rudd of Chesapeake, Va., won the 500-kilometer race and its $37,375 purse. Terry Labonte was second.