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1968 American 500

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Official name  American 500
1968 American 500
Date  October 27, 1968 (1968-October-27)
Location  North Carolina Motor Speedway, Rockingham, North Carolina
Course  Permanent racing facility 1.017 mi (1.636 km)
Distance  492 laps, 500 mi (804 km)
Weather  Chilly with temperatures approaching 67.3 °F (19.6 °C); wind speeds up to 9.9 miles per hour (15.9 km/h)

The 1968 American 500 was a NASCAR Grand National Series (now Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series) event that was held on October 27, 1968, at North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham, North Carolina.

Contents

The transition to purposely-built racers began in the early 1960s and occurred gradually over that decade. Changes made to the sport by the late 1960s brought an end to the "strictly stock" vehicles of the 1950s; most of the cars were trailered to events or hauled in by trucks.

Background

North Carolina Motor Speedway was opened as a flat, one-mile oval on October 31, 1965. In 1969, the track was extensively reconfigured to a high-banked, D-shaped oval just over one mile in length. In 1997, North Carolina Motor Speedway merged with Penske Motorsports, and was renamed North Carolina Speedway. Shortly thereafter, the infield was reconfigured, and competition on the infield road course, mostly by the SCCA, was discontinued. Currently, the track is home to the Fast Track High Performance Driving School,

Summary

There were 44 drivers who managed to qualify for this event. Only one foreigner was present - Australian-born driver Frank Gardner - would become the last-place driver due to an incident requiring a black flag on the first lap. He would become the "prototype" for current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Marcos Ambrose even though Garnder would never run another NASCAR Cup Series race after this one. Gardner's last-place finish within the confines of the American stock car world was eventually overshadowed by his championship victory at the 1968 British Saloon Car Championship while driving a European version of the Ford Escort Twin Cam.

American-born driver Dexter Gainey would be black-flagged exactly forty laps later and would be disqualified as well. Wendell Scott would become the lowest-finishing driver to complete the event; albeit 191 laps behind the lead lap drivers. Five hundred laps was raced at this event for a duration for four hours and forty-five minutes. Speeds on the track would reach around 105.06 miles per hour or 169.08 kilometres per hour for the entire course of this race. Thirty-two thousand spectators would witness another Richard Petty victory with him out-racing David Pearson by a time of fifteen seconds. LeeRoy Yarbrough would finish in third place; and two laps behind the top two finishers. Petty was running an older chassis with current sheet metal because he couldn't get his 1968 vehicle to run on a superspeedway. Shortly after this race his switch to Ford for 1969 was announced.

Cale Yarborough's solo qualifying performance of 118.677 miles per hour (190.992 km/h) would help him clinch the pole position for the event. While Yarborough and Bobby Isaac would dominate the opening laps of this event, the event ended up being a "Petty and Pearson" show for the final 100 laps. Individual race winnings for the drivers ranged from the winner's share of $17,075 ($117,596.91 when adjusted for inflation) to the last-place finisher's share of $515 ($3,546.85 when adjusted for inflation). The entire prize purse that was handed out to all the qualifying participants was $69,800 ($480,718.28 when adjusted for inflation).

References

1968 American 500 Wikipedia


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