DiGard Motorsports

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DiGard Motorsports was a championship-winning race team in NASCAR Winston Cup (now Sprint Cup) that had its most success in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The team won the 1983 Winston Cup championship with Bobby Allison at the wheel.

The team was started in 1973 based in a racecar garage near the Daytona speedway.[1] In its history, the team fielded cars for Donnie Allison in 1973 and 1974 before replacing him with Darrell Waltrip in August 1975. Waltrip posted the team's first win in October 1975 at Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway. In 1976 the team negotiated with Stokely-Van Camp's and acquired Gatorade sponsorship, but after a 1976 season where they won just one race and fell out of over ten races, the team opened a shop in Charlotte, NC and closed down the Daytona shop; with closer access to parts suppliers the team became a consistent winner in 1977.

But following the 1983 season where Bobby Allison won his and the team's only Winston Cup championship, the team fell from the top echelon of the sport.[2] and had its last Winston Cup start in 1987.[3] Allison won twice in 1984, but the team struggled in 1985; when DiGard entered a second car at the 1985 Firecracker 400 and won under Greg Sacks, Allison quit the team. Robert Yates, who later founded his eponymous championship-winning NASCAR team, was an important member of the DiGard team as its primary engine builder from August 1976 to January 1986.[1] Yates abruptly left DiGard in 1986 before the Daytona 500.[4] Robin Pemberton also was part of the team.[4]

Opening history[edit]

The team was founded in part by Mike DiProspero and Bill Gardner, who were brothers-in-law.[5] The team name came from combining their last names: DiProspero and Gardner.[5]

Donnie Allison, already established on the circuit, was their first driver.[3]

He stayed with the team and had an invested stock in it[5] but things fell apart. Darrell Waltrip was their next driver. and Bobby Allison came in later.[3]

The #88 Gatorade car and Darrell Waltrip[edit]

DiGard Gatorade Chevrolet Monte Carlo that Waltrip drove to victory in the 1978 World 600, Concord, NC, May 28, 1978

The team fired Donnie Allison and signed Darrell Waltrip partway through the 1975 season, with Gatorade on board as a sponsor beginning in 1976.[6] The team moved to a new Charlotte shop before the 1977 season and surged to the fore of NASCAR, winning the Rebel 500 and the Winston 500 in dramatic fashion. Waltrip posted six wins in 1977, four of them on superspeedways. He posted six more wins in 1978, but this time four of his wins came on short tracks. Waltrip became disenchanted with team ownership and publicly stated he would join the Ranier Racing team then driven by Lennie Pond. To the surprise of the sport's followers, Waltrip signed a four-year contract with DiGard before the 1979 season.

Waltrip nearly won the 1979 championship, coming second and losing by 11 points to Richard Petty in the championship. Waltrip and DiGard had led for most of the season that year, leading the championship with a wide lead until the last races.[7]

The impact of the loss angered Waltrip and his contract situation with the team became an issue again. Crew chief Buddy Parrott was fired at the end of 1979 but then rehired in 1980. Waltrip and Parrott won four of the 1980 season's first sixteen races but was fired in June; Parrott finished the season with the Ranier team.[8]

Looking to get out, Waltrip set up his own contract buyout out of his own pocket to leave DiGard, landing at Junior Johnson Racing.[9]

#88 car post-Darrell Waltrip[edit]

The #88 Gatorade car was driven by Ricky Rudd for 1981, garnering three pole positions that season. Rudd posted fourteen top five finishes but failed to win.[10]

Bobby Allison, who had been recruited by the team years before, joined the team in 1982. He exploded to eight victories in 1982 and finished second to Darrell Waltrip in the points championship. During this season Allison encountered the same money problems in the team that Waltrip had witnessed; he signed a new contract with DiGard in large part thinking it would get him back payments the team had withheld during the season.

For 1983 the Gatorade colors were to adorn a new Chevrolet Monte Carlo, but just before the season Miller High Life beer sponsorship joined the team and the car number was changed to #22. Gatorade and the number 88 then switched to Cliff Stewart's Pontiac and driver Geoff Bodine.[6]

The #22 Miller car and Bobby Allison[edit]

Allison raced with the team, driving the Miller High Life car, and won the 1983 NASCAR Winston Cup championship. He began driving Chevrolets in the first three races; in March the team was denied access to nose pieces for their Monte Carlos as the Junior Johnson team was given primary access to parts. The team switched to Buicks it had run the previous season. In all the #22 won six races in the 1983 season.

But the team's finances continued to deteriorate. Allison won twice in 1984 but the team was inconsistent; it was involved supplying engines to the Curb Motorsports team driven by Richard Petty and the two teams were at loggerheads over provision of engines and payments; the team's deal with Curb ended after the 1984 Firecracker 400.

The team entered a second car, for Greg Sacks, for the 1985 Firecracker 400; Sacks won the race, but the entry of two cars violated Allison's contract with the team. He left the team after the race and fielded cars out of his own race shop for the rest of the season.

1985 Firecracker 400 win[edit]

In 1985, DiGard had Bobby Allison battling for the championship in the #77 Miller High Life car. For the Firecracker 400 at Daytona, DiGard set up and raced what is called a Research & Development car (a one-off unsponsored car numbered 10 entered to a race primarily for team improvement) with Greg Sacks at the helm.[11] Instead of simply doing its intended purpose— running a small amount of laps and collecting data about the track that DiGard could use for Allison's car— Sacks drove the car to an unexpected victory. It was later alleged that the car sneaked through inspection with an oversize engine, and thus the team cheated.[2] NASCAR did not find anything wrong with the #10 in postrace inspection, however, and Sacks' win stood.

The impact of the R&D car's victory was significant. Reportedly angered that the team was focusing its attention elsewhere, Allison (who had won the 1983 championship driving for the team) quit and [12] Sacks was hired to race for the rest of the year, but did not capture another Top-5 finish in 1985.[13] Allison went on to drive for Stavola Brothers Racing and took the Miller sponsorship with him following the season.

End in NASCAR[edit]

The allegations of cheating—combined with reported money troubles—shook the team, and some say imploded it.[2] Bobby Allison left the team midseason in 1985, engine builder Robert Yates left during the 1986 season,[1] and the team ran a limited schedule and a myriad of drivers during their final seasons.[3]

The team's last NASCAR Winston Cup entry was in 1987 with Rodney Combs.[3] The team's final three starts were with Combs early in the 1987 season, including entries without sponsorship.[14]

After the team's demise/ Bob Whitcomb Era[edit]

In 1988, businessman Bob Whitcomb bought the team's assets.[8] This was this team that won the 1990 Daytona 500 with Derrike Cope. Cope Found successes with this team. Sponsorship from Purolator Filters and the victory in the 1990 Daytona 500 helped build the team up. Cope would again win later that season at Dover. This would be Cope's only victories in Cup. In 1991 Purolator and Cope returned to the team. Cope posted 2 top 10 finishes and 1 top 5. Cope and Purolator again returned for the 1992 season. The team posted 3 top tens in the 1992 season. The team lost sponsorship from Purolator and lost Cope, who left to drive the 98 for Cale Yarborough Motorsports. This effectively caused Bob Whitcomb to shut the tam down.[15]

Bill Gardner today is a part of an effort to make a racetrack in Oregon a success.[16]

His brother, Jim Gardner, died.[17]

The car number 88 is used by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the car is colored green and white similar to the DiGard era.

Driver History[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]