The 1973 Winston 500 was a NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing event that was held on May 6, 1973, at Alabama International Motor Speedway in Talladega, Alabama (AIMS).
The race was won by David Pearson. His was the only car on the lead lap by the end of the race.
Also notable was a fourth place finish by Clarence Lovell, This was Lovell's best career finish, and his only finish in the top five of a NASCAR Cup race. Lovell would die five days later on May 11, in a single vehicle truck accident which occurred while he was trying to change a tape in a dashboard mounted tape deck.
For the 1973 Winston 500 race, the usual starting field of 50 was expanded to 60 by track management, and this would later prove controversial due to events in the race.
On lap 9 of Ramo Stott's race, his engine let go, dumping oil onto the speedway's asphalt. Wendell Scott, behind him, spun out, and both cars skidded into Talladega's infield dirt, creating a massive cloud of dirt and dust. The combination of oil on the track and suddenly limited visibility caused a massive pileup.
One contemporary account on film called it 'The worst accident in NASCAR history', in terms of the number of cars involved.
All drivers were able to leave their cars under their own power. Buddy Baker and Cale Yarborough were eliminated, and when they got out of their cars they had to dodge additional cars crashing around them.Some drivers did have injuries. Several received lacerations; Earl Brooks had a broken hand, Joe Frasson had shoulder injuries, and Slick Gardner suffered a knee injury.
Bobby Allison, one of the drivers eliminated in the lap 9/10 wreck, later ripped the track's management for the field size of 60 set by track management - "They (filled the field) all right, all over the backstretch."
Cleanup from the wreck proceeded under 37 laps of a yellow flag, lasting one hour and five minutes. 19 cars were eliminated outright. At least one other, that of Richard Petty, was repaired and eventually ran more laps.
David Pearson lost the lead draft (Buddy Baker saying Pearson fouled out the spark plugs on his Mercury and then got them replaced under the lengthy yellow).
On lap 73, the engine of D. K. Ulrich's car dumps oil onto the track, and causes another caution. Before this caution is over, Darrell Waltrip's car is found to have a blown piston, and is retired.
Pearson's number 21 car was not left with much competition after the large wreck on lap 9. It stretched out a very wide lead by the end of the race.
With David Pearson on lap 185 (and Vic Parsons a full five laps behind him), Parsons's engine exploded, and his car slipped in the dumped oil, causing a crash. The rest of the race proceeded under caution, with Pearson taking the yellow and checkered flag. Pearson was the only car on the lead lap at the end of the race.