1979 Daytona 500: Wikis


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21st Daytona 500
Location Daytona International Speedway
Date February 18, 1979
Laps 200
Daytona 500 Champion Richard Petty
Average speed 143.977
Pole Sitter Buddy Baker
Most Laps Led Donnie Allison
Qualifying Race Winners Buddy Baker and Darrell Waltrip
Network CBS
Announcers Ken Squier and David Hobbs

The 1979 Daytona 500 was the second race of the 1979 NASCAR Winston Cup (now Sprint Cup) season. It was held on February 18, 1979. Critics consider the race to be the most important race in stock car history.[1]

A crash and subsequent fight between leaders Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison, along with Donnie's brother Bobby, brought national publicity to NASCAR. Motorsports announcer and editor Dick Berggren said: "Nobody knew it then, but that was the race that got everything going. It was the first 'water cooler' race, the first time people had stood around water coolers on Monday and talked about seeing a race on TV the day before. It took a while - years, maybe - to realize how important it was."[1]



The 1979 Daytona 500 was the first 500-mile race to be broadcast in its entirety live on national television in the United States.[2][3] Races were shown on television but as an example, the Indianapolis 500 was broadcast on tape delay that evening in this era, and usually in edited form. Most races aired during this period were only broadcast starting with the final quarter to half of the race, as was the procedure for ABC's IndyCar broadcasts on their Wide World of Sports program.

CBS signed a new contract with NASCAR to telecast the race. Ken Squier, David Hobbs and Chris Economaki were the booth announcers with Ned Jarrett and Mike Joy in the pits for that race. The day was fortunate for CBS as a major snowstorm known as the Presidents Day Snowstorm of 1979 bogged down most of the Northeast and parts of the Midwestern United States, increasing the viewership of the event. The race introduced two new innovative uses of TV cameras: The "in-car" camera and the low angle "speed shot", which are now considered standard in all telecasts of auto racing. Motor Racing Network was broadcasting the race on the radio, and their broadcasters include Dick Berggren.[1]


Buddy Baker qualified on the pole, but his race ended on lap 38 after his engine expired.[4] The rest of the five fastest qualifiers include Donnie Allison, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, and Benny Parsons.


The race started under the yellow flag for 15 laps due to wet conditions after overnight rain the night before the race. Donnie Allison lost control of his car on lap 32 (of 200 laps) and forced Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison to take evasive action. All three cars spun through the backstretch infield which was slippery and muddy after a morning rain. Yarborough was forced to repair his car, and fell two laps behind the leader. He made up both laps through a series of caution periods.



Donnie Allison was leading the race on the final lap with Yarborough drafting him tightly. As Yarborough attempted a slingshot pass at the end of the backstretch, Allison attempted to block him. Yarborough refused to give ground and as he pulled alongside Allison, his left side tires left the pavement and went into the wet and muddy infield grass. Yarborough lost control of his car and contacted Allison's car halfway down the backstretch. As both drivers tried to regain control, their cars made contact three more times before locking together and crashing into the outside wall in turn three. After the cars settled in the infield grass (short of the finish line), Donnie Allison and Yarborough began to argue. After they stopped arguing, Bobby Allison, who was one lap down at that point, stopped, and a fight broke out. Richard Petty, who was over half a lap behind before the incident, went on to win.[2] With the brawl in the infield, the television audience was shown seconds of Petty's win. The story made the front page of The New York Times Sports section. NASCAR had arrived as a national sport, and began to expand from its Southeastern United States base and become a national sport, shedding its moonshine running roots along the way.

Reactions from Yarborough and the Allisons were not surprisingly different. Yarborough said "I was going to pass him and win the race, but he turned left and crashed me. So, hell, I crashed him back. If I wasn't going to get back around, he wasn't either." [1] Allison said "The track was mine until he hit me in the back," he says. "He got me loose and sideways, so I came back to get what was mine. He wrecked me, I didn't wreck him." [1]

Play-By-Play of the Final Lap

David Hobbs - "the white flag is out, one lap to go, this is the last lap."

Ken Squier - "Two of the greatest fiddling, figdeting with first place, trying to take it home it all comes down to this. Out of turn two Donnie Allison in first where will Cale make his move, he comes to the inside Donnie Allison throws the block, Cale hits him, he slides, Donnie Allison slides, they hit again, they drive up the turn, they're hitting the wall, they're head on to the wall, they slide to the inside, watching closely the third and fourth place cars, they are out of it. The third and fourth place are coming around for the finish, between A.J. Foyt and Richard Petty. In the back strech are the leaders two cars are out. The leaders are in turns three and four, the leaders are in turn three and four. Coming down is Richard Petty out in front, Darrell Waltrip is in second, A.J. Foyt is in third, here they come, Waltrip trying to sling shot, Petty out in front, at the line, Waltrip to the inside.......PETTY WINS IT!!!, [Crowd Roars], down on pit road it has gone crazy, the whole Richard Petty crew is jumping up and down as Richard Petty has won it".

David Hobbs - Richard Petty has just won his 6th Daytona 500 and the crowd here is going absolutely mad!

Ken Squier - Well there he is after a full year with out a win as the two leaders tangle in the back straightaway, they throw the block that didn't work....A.J. Foyt pulls up to congratulate Petty, no matter how hard A.J. fights he is a true gentleman at the end, lets look again at that crash. There it is, they are already in the turn spinning, sliding, Donnie Allison's hopes vanished, Cale Yarborough trying to win his third he's out of it. a sad, sad moment for these people, but for Richard Petty hurt all of last year, driving most of the year with broken, bad bruised body, comes home a winner today after 45 straight losses. If we can, we should be down at pit road. Is going to be some scene, Richard Petty's 18 year old son Kyle out there waiting for his father. They have both tasted success.........And here comes a $60,000 car becoming a 22 passenger school bus taking his crew to victory lane......AND THERE'S A FIGHT BETWEEN DONNIE ALLISON AND CALE YARBORUGH. TEMPERS OVERFLOWING THEY ARE ANGRY BECAUSE THEY KNOW THEY HAVE LOST! AND WHAT A BITTER DEFEAT."

Race results

  1. 43-Richard Petty [4]
  2. 88-Darrell Waltrip
  3. 51-A. J. Foyt
  4. 1-Donnie Allison
  5. 11-Cale Yarborough
  6. 30-Tighe Scott
  7. 68-Chuck Bown
  8. 2-Dale Earnhardt
  9. 14-Coo Coo Marlin
  10. 79-Frank Warren
  11. 15-Bobby Allison
  12. 67-Buddy Arrington
  13. 40-D. K. Ulrich
  14. 19-Bill Dennis
  15. 98-Ralph Jones
  16. 44-Terry Labonte
  17. 3-Richard Childress
  18. 72-Benny Parsons
  19. 50-Bruce Hill
  20. 39-Blackie Wangerin
  21. 74-Bobby Wawak
  22. 82-Paul Fess
  23. 41-Grant Adcox
  24. 02-Dave Marcis
  25. 70-J. D. McDuffie
  26. 37-Dave Watson
  27. 05-Dick Brooks
  28. 00-John Utsman
  29. 47-Geoffrey Bodine
  30. 54-Lennie Pond
  31. 90-Ricky Rudd
  32. 5-Neil Bonnett
  33. 12-Harry Gant
  34. 25-Ronnie Thomas
  35. 87-Gary Balough
  36. 72-Joe Millikan
  37. 21-David Pearson
  38. 17-Skip Manning
  39. 75-Butch Mock
  40. 28-Buddy Baker
  41. 89-Jim Vandiver


The race was released on DVD in 2007.



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