Puneet Varma

1974 Southern 500

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Official name  Southern 500
1974 Southern 500
Date  September 2, 1974 (1974-September-02)
Location  Darlington Raceway, Darlington, South Carolina
Course  Permanent racing facility 1.375 mi (2.212 km)
Distance  367 laps, 500.5 mi (805.4 km)
Weather  Hot with temperatures reaching up to 91.9 °F (33.3 °C); wind speeds up to 8.9 miles per hour (14.3 km/h)

The 1974 Southern 500, the 25th running of the event, was a NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing event that occurred on September 2, 1974, at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina.

Contents

Jerry Schild would make his only "top-ten" finish at this event. Prior to this event, the 1974 NASCAR Winston Cup Series was dominated by three drivers: Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, and David Pearson (who finished in an agonizing 25th place after the checkered flag).

Had David Sisco had finished below third place at this event, his career would have been shortened due to financial reasons.

Background

Darlington Raceway, nicknamed by many NASCAR fans and drivers as "The Lady in Black" or "The Track Too Tough to Tame" and advertised as a "NASCAR Tradition", is a race track built for NASCAR racing located near Darlington, South Carolina. It is of a unique, somewhat egg-shaped design, an oval with the ends of very different configurations, a condition which supposedly arose from the proximity of one end of the track to a minnow pond the owner refused to relocate. This situation makes it very challenging for the crews to set up their cars' handling in a way that will be effective at both ends.

The track is a four-turn 1.366 miles (2.198 km) oval. The track's first two turns are banked at twenty-five degrees, while the final two turns are banked two degrees lower at twenty-three degrees. The front stretch (the location of the finish line) and the back stretch is banked at six degrees. Darlington Raceway can seat up to 60,000 people.

Summary

A crowd of 65,000 people would see a race lasting four hours and thirty minutes. Eleven cautions were handed out for a duration of 101 laps; which has become the longest duration under the yellow flag in Darlington Raceway history. The race itself lasted for 367 laps on a paved track spanning 1.366 miles per hour (2.198 km/h) in distance. Richard Petty was the pole position winner by driving speeds up to 150.132 miles per hour (241.614 km/h) by himself. There were 39 American and one Canadian competitor in the race; Earl Ross. Roy Mayne and Jerry Hansen would make their respective exits from the NASCAR Cup Series after this race.

Bobby Allison climbed into the #24 Cecil Gordon car for a short period of time; falling out early and substituted for Gordon until his car fell out also. Allison did the smart thing, as the oil pressure was running dangerously low due to the hot air temperatures and the worn, single stage external oil pump. He did not want to blow the engine and possibly crash Cecil's only car.

Only twelve vehicles managed to finish the entire race; Cale Yarborough managed to defeat Darrell Waltrip by a distance of at least one lap. Last-place finisher Earl Brooks had a water pump issue on the first lap of the race. This would allow him to collect a paycheck of $1,100 ($5,341.90 when adjusted for inflation) while the race winner went home $28,000 richer ($135,975.71 when adjusted for inflation). Chevrolet and Dodge vehicles were the mainstay of the racing lineup; with racing models varying from 1972 to 1974. The average speed of the vehicles involved in the race was 111.075 miles per hour (178.758 km/h); with speeds improving measurably since the 1964 Southern 500. Not counting bonus money, this race counted as $15,000 to win and $10,000 for second. Petty had about $200,000 in season winnings and Cale was closer to accumulating $175,000 in his 1974 NASCAR season.

Manual transmission vehicles the only kind of vehicles that were allowed to participate in this race; a policy that NASCAR has retained to the present day.

A lot of veterans might do well to take driving lessons from teen-aged Jerry Schild.

Thirteen of the 40 drivers on the starting grid would see their race end prematurely due to faulty car engines. Eight crashes were recorded by NASCAR; making a good portion of the starting grid not to finish the race. The total prize purse for this event was $132,435 ($643,140.82 when adjusted for inflation). While the 1974 Southern 500 had the fourth richest prize purse in the 1974 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season, the traditional Southern 500 started to lose the prestige and appeal with the younger drivers and NASCAR officials in the 1975 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season.

References

1974 Southern 500 Wikipedia


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