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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Neil Bonnett #51 Country Time Lemonade Chevrolet

    This was to be the car driven in at least the first 6 races of the 1994 season, by Neil Bonnett, for car owner James Finch~ And although the car did make a few starts that season, none of them were with Neil Bonnett behind the wheel~ In today's post, I'll share with you the events leading up to Neil's time in the Country Time car, and his tragic demise~

    On April 1st, 1990, during the running of the TranSouth 500 @ Darlington, Bonnett's car hit the water barrels in front of pit road, drivers side first~ Neil was left with amnesia and dizziness, and retired from racing, going back into the broadcast booth~ By the start of the 1992 season, Bonnet had began testing cars for Dale Earnhardt Sr.~ This gave Neil the desire to race again, and by the start of the 1993 season, Bonnett was once again cleared to drive~

                                          Neil in his big return in the #31 Mom 'n' Pops car~
Neil Bonnett #51 #31 Racing Champions Country Time 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog die

    In his first race back since his crash at Darlington, Bonnett was back @ Talladega for the DieHard 500~ He qualified in the 20th position, but was involved in a major crash on lap 134, that sent his car airborne and into the catch fence~ Bonnett climbed out of the car unscathed, and was in the broadcast booth calling the race shortly afterwards~ Bonnett's final race was also the final race of the 1993 season, a race in which Bonnett was entered just to retire shortly after the start of the race to ensure Dale Earnhardt of 3 more points in the Championship~ And on lap 3, Bonnett pulled the car in for what would be, unbeknownst to him, his final race~

                                                    Bonnett with his Country Time car~
Neil Bonnett #51 #31 Racing Champions Country Time 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog die

     Neil wasn't exactly thrilled to have his final start be a start and park deal to help a friend out, and so before the start of the 1994 season, he inked at minimum 6 race deal with James Finch, with sponsorship from Country Time Lemonade~ Bonnett was eager to get out there and compete again, and show people he still had it in him to be a competitive driver~ During the first practice session for the 1994 Daytona 500, he lost control of the car in the 4th turn, swerved onto the track apron, and then up the steep banking of the track, before crashing into the wall nearly head on~ Neil Bonnett was dead at the age of 47~

                                           Custom Neil Bonnett Racing Champions card~
Neil Bonnett Racing Champions Age 1/64

    The team... now with driver Jeff Purvis, got its first start of the season @ Atlanta, for the Purolator 500~ Purvis finished 21st in this race, his highest finishing position during his tenure with the team~ He ran 6 more races with them, failing to make the field for one of those races, the Slick 50 500 @ Phoenix, and was let go at the end of the season~ Current Sprint Cup driver, and former driver for Finch, Kurt Busch, once ran the now infamous Country Time paint scheme to honor Neil in a Nationwide race @ Talladega~

                                      Neil Bonnett #51 Country Time Lemonade Chevrolet~
Neil Bonnett #51 Country Time Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog age die Dale Earnhardt
                                                              Click pics to enlarge~
Neil Bonnett #51 Country Time Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog age die Dale Earnhardt
                                                       Full diecast hauler with car~
Neil Bonnett #51 Country Time Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog age die Dale Earnhardt hauler transporter truck



     I've always wondered why the tires on these Neil cars don't have any lettering on them~ It hasn't rubbed off over time, it just never was there~ It bothers me a crumb, but heck.. not that much~ The car looks pretty awesome from a distance, but up close, you can see a little shoddy work on the paint of the car, not bad.. but just enough to notice~

    The hauler is more true to the color of the paint scheme, and was made by Racing Collectibles Inc.~ As a whole, I give these an A-, due to the car not matching in color as closely as it should be, and for Neil's name not being on the car~ I'm sure that was for legal reasons, so I didn't take much off grade wise~

    Neil's candle was already burning out at the time of his death, but he rekindled that flame, and died doing what he loved, driving a fast race car~ Sadly, Neil's death did very little to change the safety of the sport~ It would take the lives of several other drivers to make any proper safety changes like we have today~ Below are some videos featuring Neil throughout his career, along with a tribute video~ As always, thanks for stopping by the blog~

                                            1983 Daytona 125 - Bonnett win and interview~

                                                         TNN Winners - Neil Bonnett~

                                        Neil Bonnett tribute from Inside Winston Cup Racing~

                                               Scary 1993 DieHard 500 Talladega crash~

Monday, September 14, 2015

Chad Little #9 Melling Performance Ford

    Chad Little was a man of little luck when it came to NASCAR racing~ One of the most underrated drivers of the 1990's, Little lost the best ride of his career to rookie driver Kurt Busch at the end of the season in 2000~ In today's post, I'll be reviewing his time in the #9 Melling Performance car~

    Little started the 1992 season off driving for Cale Yarborough in the #66 TropArtic Ford, but was let go in favor of Bobby Hillin Jr. following a 23rd place finish in the Food City 500 @ Bristol~ Hillin lasted one race with the team, and was let go in favor of Jimmy Hensley for the remainder of the season~

    He was out of a ride for the next 4 races, and was finally picked up by Harry Melling's team for the 11 race of the season, the Budweiser 500 @ Dover, where he qualified 25th, and finished the race in 26th, due to transmission issues~ The secondary sponsor on Little's car during this time was the 1-800-4-A-CHILD IOF Hotline, a child abuse prevention hotline~

                                      Maxx Racing card featuring Little in his Melling suit~
Chad Little #9 Melling Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog

    The following race was at Pocono, for the Champion Spark Plug 500, where Little qualified the car 25th, but due to a faulty piston, he was regulated to a 37th place finish~ Next up on the schedule was the Miller Genuine Draft 400 @ Michigan, where Little started 32nd, and finished the race in the 21st position~

    His best run in the car came in the DieHard 500 @ Talladega, where he qualified a season best 12th, and drove the car to his only top 10 of the season, with an 8th place finish~ Following the Talladega race, Little qualified 31st for the Champions Spark Plug 400 @ Michigan, and battled his way to a 17th place finish~

    Trouble loomed over Little once more the following race, the Mountain Dew Southern 500 @ Darlington, as he was involved in a crash on lap 135, resulting in a 34th place finish~ Things didn't get any better for the following race, the Miller Genuine Draft 400 @ Richmond, where out of a 35 car field, Little struggled his way to a 27th place finish, 7 laps off the pace of race winner Rusty Wallace~

    Things didn't go his way for the Peak Antifreeze 500 @ Dover either, where he finished 29th~ For the Mello Yello 500 @ Charlotte, fate handed another blow to Little's season, as he had overheating problems that resulted in a 33rd place finish~ In the next to last race of the season, Little brought the car home in 24th place, 9 laps off the pace of race winner Kyle Petty~

                                       Chad Little with his newly sponsored Mayflower car~
Chad Little #9 Mayflower Melling Ford Thunderbird NASCAR racingchampions.blogspot.com

    In the season finale race, the Hooter's 500 @ Atlanta, Little and the Melling team picked up sponsorship from Mayflower Transit, a sponsor he would also run during the coming up 1993 season for the season opener @ Daytona~ He qualified 35th in the field of 41 cars, and finished in the 17th position~ After the 1993 Daytona 500, in which he finished 17th, Little was let go from the team, but returned for 1 race at Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600, with sponsorship from Orkin Pest Control, where he finished 34th~ This would be his final race with the Melling team~

                                               Chad Little #9 Melling Performance Ford~
Chad Little #9 Melling Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog 1-800-4-A-CHILD Winston Cup
                                                             Click pics to enlarge~
Chad Little #9 Melling Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog 1-800-4-A-CHILD Winston Cup


    With the eye popping red and white paint scheme of this car, it easily became a favorite of mine~ It's very reminiscent of Bill Elliott's time with the Melling team~ The card shows the car in the background, with Little squatting down beside it smiling, and I think it accents the car quite nicely~ All of the logo's are crisp, with only the black trim around the white of the car having any minor flaws~ All in all, I have to give this car an A+ on the Racing Champions quality scale~ Little also has another of my favorite paint schemes with his #97 John Deere car~

     Little finished his Cup career with 1 top 5, and 16 top 10's~ His best season came in 1998, in a time when Jack Roush was fielding 5 cars, when he only had the proper resources for 2, the cars of Mark Martin and Jeff Burton~ I feel that if given the chance to stick with the team, he would have ended up eventually winning a race, but the world of NASCAR doesn't sit by for anyone too long, and Little simply never got his chance to shine~ Below are some clips from Chad's career, and as always, thank you all for visiting the blog~ :D

                                                        1991 Chad Little Interview~

                                                            Top 5 Chad Little crashes~

                                                Chad Little crash @ Richmond - 1996~

                                                    Chad Little crashes - 2000 Winston~



               

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Jimmy Means #52 Alka-Seltzer Pontiac

    Jimmy Means was one of my favorite drivers as a child~ He was one of the gritty, hard working owner/drivers in the Cup series, and a true racer~ NASCAR has lacked drivers like Means for many years now, and in today's post, I'm going to be talking about Jimmy's time in the #52 Alka-Seltzer Pontiac~

    Jimmy picked up sponsorship from Alka-Seltzer to start the 1989 season, and failed to qualify in his first race with the sponsor, the 1989 Daytona 500~ This race had a large number of entries, with 61 drivers vying for a spot in the 500~ His first start in the car came in the following race, the Goodwrench 500 @ Rockingham, where he qualified 35th, and finished 33rd~

    He led his first laps in the Alka-Seltzer car in the DieHard 500 @ Talladega, leading 4 laps before being involved in a crash in turn 4 involving Geoff Bodine, Derrike Cope, Rusty Wallace, Michael Waltrip, and Stan Barrett on lap 26~ Jimmy's best run of the season came in the Pepsi 400 @ Daytona, where he managed a 12th place finish~ He failed to qualify for 7 races during the season, and finished 31st in the final points standings~

                                                    Jimmy Means promo card 1989~
Jimmy Means #52 Racing Champions /64 NASCAR diecast blog age BGN Winston Cup

    For the start of the 1990 season, Means was again in the Alka-Seltzer car, and made the field for the season opening Daytona 500, where he rolled off 37th, and finished 29th, 5 laps off the pace of race winner Derrike Cope~ His best finish of the season was again a 12th place in the Pepsi 400 @ Daytona~ This was the best season for Means in the Alka-Seltzer car, only failing to qualify for 2 races, and moving up 2 spots from the previous season to 29th in the final points standings~

    The 1991 season was the final year of sponsorship for Alka-Seltzer with the Means team, and it was the worst season he had with the sponsor~ He made 20 starts that season, with a best finish of 20th in the Winston 500 @ Talladega~ Bobby Hillin Jr. drove the car for the Budweiser 500 @ Dover, and the following race @ Sonoma, the Banquet Frozen Foods 300, and Mike Wallace ran the car for the Pyroil 500 @ Phoenix, and the season finale race @ Atlanta, the Hardee's 500~ Means failed to qualify for 5 races, and finished 33rd in the final points standings~

                                                 Jimmy Means #52 Alka-Seltzer Pontiac~
Jimmy Smut Means #52 Alka Seltzer Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog custom age
                                                             Click pics to enlarge~
Jimmy Smut Means #52 Alka Seltzer Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog custom age

*UPDATE* ***I have now updated this post with custom pics that I Photoshopped, so now it says Alka-Seltzer like it should~ The below review is for the regular car with no logos***

     If you've read my blog in the past, you already know what my main gripe is about this car~ It appears as if it's a sponsorless car, when in fact, it wasn't~ I asked Jimmy's twitter account what the reason for this was, and he or someone who runs the page was nice enough to reply back to me, and I thank them for the information~

    It turns out, along with alcohol and tobacco, Racing Champions could not put medicine sponsors on their cars~ I never knew this, and always wondered why it was missing its logos~ I find this to be absurd, because this was one of the greatest looking paint schemes of all time, and still is to this day, in my opinion~

    Nonetheless, the powder blue of this car is still outstanding looking on the Racing Champions car, and the card that come along with it adds a nice touch~ It's also cool to see the Alka-Seltzer brand logos on Jimmy's racing suit~ I give this car a B+ on the Racing Champions quality scale, and would like to add that it would easily be an A+ if it had the Alka-Seltzer logos on the car~

    Jimmy may not have had the best of luck in NASCAR, but he was a heck of a driver on the short tracks of Alabama~ He was one of the hardest working guys in the sport for 18 seasons, and I'm sure no one can attest to that~

    I miss drivers like him, who had to do it all on their own, and make things happen~ We may never see another driver like Jimmy in the Cup series again, and for that, I am deeply saddened~ Below is a few clips featuring Means and his time in the Cup series, and as always, thanks to everybody who stops by the blog~ I'll see ya' next time~

                                             1988 Pontiac Excitement 400 - Means crash~
                                    1993 Splitfire Spark Plug 500 - Means gets some damage~
                                              1987 Bud at the Glen - Jimmy Means spins~
                                           Jimmy Means Racing gets a top 5 w/Joey Gase~ 
                                                                           

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Sam Bass #92 Sam Bass Chevrolet

    It seems like mostly everything about NASCAR has changed since I started watching as a child in the 1980's~ One of the very few exceptions to that is Sam Bass and his artwork~ Sam has been a regular in the sport since he burst into the NASCAR scene in 1985, when he first got his artwork on the cover of the 1985 Coca-Cola World 600 Charlotte race program~ In today's post, I'll be writing about his time in the sport, along with some of his greatest accomplishments~

    Sam's first paint scheme design was done for Bobby Allison in 1988, when he designed the #12 Miller High Life Buick~ Allison's first race in the car came in the 1988 Daytona 500, and he won the race~ In 1992, he created what is arguably one of the greatest paint schemes of all time, the Rainbow Warrior car, driven by NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon~

    He also designed cars for Rusty Wallace, Sterling Marlin, Hut Stricklin, and Rick Mast, Dale Earnhardt Sr., and Dale Earnhardt Jr., among the many other art projects he has done for NASCAR in his 30 year career in the sport~

                      Sam's Rainbow Warrior paint scheme on Buddy Baker's #46 Dupont car~
Jeff Gordon #46 Dupont Buddy Baker

    In 1994, Sam was commissioned to create Lug Nut, the official mascot of Charlotte Motor Speedway~ By 1997, he was recognized as the first officially licensed artist of NASCAR~ For the 1997 Winston All-Star race, Sam designed the popular Wheaties car driven in the race by Dale Earnhardt Sr.~

   This scheme was used on Wheaties cereal boxes in a special series of cereal boxes featuring Earnhardt~ Sam was always a friend of Earnhardt, and when his son moved up to the Cup series, it was Sam who designed the famous #8 Budweiser paint scheme used in Earnhardt Jr.'s rookie campaign~

    In 2000, Sam opened an art gallery outside of turn 2 of Charlotte Motor Speedway, which to this day is still in operation as his current gallery~ In 2005, he was commissioned to design the cars, driver and crew uniforms, helmets, promotional art, and fan apparel for the movie Talladega Nights:The Ballad of Ricky Bobby featuring Will Ferrell~

                                            The man himself with one of his famous guitars~
Sam Bass guitar Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog

     Sam is a severe diabetic, and lost the bottom half of his left leg in 2008, and was fitted with a prosthetic device~ The device rubbed his leg raw, and he developed sepsis, a severe blood poisoning~
 He underwent life threatening surgery on February 7th 2014, and was able to pull through by the grace of God~

    Twenty five percent of all people who have sepsis like this do not make it out of the hospital alive~ On crutches for 3 months after his release from the hospital, he spent most of the year healing, and only attended 6 races during the 2014 season~ He was able to make a full recovery, and continues to awe the NASCAR world with his amazing artwork~

                                                    Sam Bass #92 Sam Bass Chevrolet~
Sam Bass #92 Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog age
                                                             Click pics to enlarge~
Sam Bass #92 Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog age


    I'll start this review out by saying that pictures do not do this car justice~ This car is dayglo orange, and really pops when seen in person~ Sam created the design of this car, and as usual, did an outstanding job~ The first time I laid eyes on this car, I knew it had to be part of my diecast collection~

    I don't know if it's just me thinking this, but Sam looks younger now than he did in 1992~ I feel like the card could have been a bit more colorful, due to the bright, rich colors of the car, but all in all I give this car an A- on the Racing Champions quality scale~

    According to the back of the package, this was to be part of a planned series of Sam Bass cars~ For reasons unknown to me, this idea never materialized, as this was the only Sam Bass artist car ever produced by Racing Champions~ Below I have added some videos featuring Sam, feel free to check them out, and as always, I thank you all for stopping by the blog~ Stay tuned for the next post, which will feature Jimmy Means and his #52 Alka Seltzer car~ :)

                                      Sam Bass: First Officially Licensed Artist of NASCAR~

                                      Angie Ward talks with Sam @ Martinsville Speedway~

                                              Sam Bass signing autographs for the fans~

                                         Probably the rudest thing I've ever seen a driver do~