June 27, 1999. This was the date of the memorable NASCAR Cup Series Save Mart/Kragen 350 (now the Toyota/Save Mart 350) at Sears Point Raceway (now Sonoma Raceway) deep in Sonoma, California wine country.
It actually wasn’t Jeff Gordon’s win that made the race so memorable either, but rather the fact that there was not one, but two race-ending flips.
The first flip happened fairly early on during Lap 26, when Steve Park ended up drifting too far sideways into Turn 1, hitting the guardrail, and doing one complete flip. Despite landing right-side up, Park’s Chevrolet was out of commission for the rest of the race.
The next flip happened around 70 laps later, when Ken Schrader spun out and hit almost the same exact spot in the road course as Park did. Unlike Park’s flip though, Schrader’s did not end quite as gracefully, and his car ended up landing on its roof.
Luckily, both drivers were uninjured, but it just went to demonstrate the treachery of Sonoma Raceway, specifically when it comes to that tricky Turn 1.
It’s too bad the wrecks seemingly overshadowed Gordon’s big win, considering he bounced back from the flu and laryngitis to win back-to-back races in Sonoma.
Per Chicago Tribune:
Gordon held off road-course specialist Mark Martin by .197 seconds in a race marked by seven cautions and a red flag with about three laps to go.
It was Gordon’s fourth straight road-course victory in a string dating to 1997 at Watkins Glen, N.Y. He now has four career road-course victories, matching Martin.
Gordon, the defending Winston Cup champion, also earned his fourth victory of the season and broke a string of three straight second-place finishes.
“I was feeling pretty bad,” Gordon said. “I didn’t want to let my team down.”
Sorry, Jeff. Sometimes big wrecks just outweigh good racing.