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1979 Southern 500

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Official name  Southern 500
1979 Southern 500
Date  September 3, 1979 (1979-September-03)
Location  Darlington Raceway, Darlington, South Carolina
Course  Permanent racing facility 1.366 mi (2.198 km)
Distance  367 laps, 501.3 mi (806.7 km)
Weather  Hot with temperatures reaching a maximum of 88.9 °F (31.6 °C); with wind speeds up to 9.9 miles per hour (15.9 km/h)

The 1979 Southern 500, the 30th running of the event, was a NASCAR Winston Cup Series (now Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series) race that took place on September 3, 1979, at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina.



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.


Three hundred and sixty seven laps were done on a paved oval track spanning 1.366 miles (2.198 km) for a grand total of 501.3 miles (806.8 km). The total time of the race as three hours, fifty-eight minutes, and fourteen seconds. Speeds were: 126.259 miles per hour (203.194 km/h) for the average and 154.88 miles per hour (249.26 km/h) for the pole position speed. There were nine cautions for fifty-two laps. David Pearson, who was in semi-retirement and had left the Wood Brothers after a disastrous pit stop at the Rebel 500 earlier that year, was driving for Rod Osterlund in his last race for the team as a substitute for rookie contender Dale Earnhardt, injured at the Pocono race, defeated Bill Elliott by two laps and four seconds. He would race for an injured Dale Earnhardt. Sixty thousand people came to watch this live event. Other famous drivers at the event include Darrell Waltrip, Richard Childress, Richard Petty, Terry Labonte, and Ricky Rudd.

Darrell Waltrip had controlled the race until his late-race incidents that dropped him to 11th, which ended his shot at sweeping the track's two races. This race would be a microcosm of his own career at Darlington; despite two Rebel 500 wins (1977 and 1979, and two further wins in 1981 and 1984), Waltrip's inability to win the Southern 500 in the fall would haunt him during his career (he never took the checkered flag first in the Southern 500; his 1992 win came when NASCAR waved the red flag, and the cars were parked at the end of pit lane with 69 laps remaining). Those late race incidents in this race would later cause him to lose the 1979 championship to Richard Petty. The top prize of the race was $29,925 ($98,748.38 when considering inflation).

The participants of this race were all American-born males. Ed Negre would make his final appearance here while Billy Smith would make his only professional stock car appearance. Only manual transmission vehicles were allowed to participate in this race; a policy that NASCAR has retained to the present day.

Finishing order

† signifies that the driver is known to be deceased
* Driver failed to finish race


  • Start of race: Donnie Allison had the pole position to begin the event
  • Lap 2: Ferrel Harris was black-flagged out of the race and into a last-place finish
  • Lap 17: An oil leak in Earle Canavan's vehicle managed to ruin his day on the track
  • Lap 46: James Hylton's vehicle developed engine problems
  • Lap 56: Caution due to Harry Gant and Joe Millikan's accident; racing resumed on lap 62
  • Lap 69: Caution due to Bobby Allison's accident; racing resumed on lap 72
  • Lap 83: Caution due to two cars spinning into each other; racing resumed on lap 88
  • Lap 90: Caution due to a vehicle spinning out of control; racing resumed on lap 92
  • Lap 112: Coo Coo Marlin had engine problems which ending his hopes of winning the event
  • Lap 116: Caution due to a vehicle spinning out of control; racing resumed on lap 121
  • Lap 133: Tighe Scott had a terminal crash; forcing him to leave the race prematurely
  • Lap 142: Caution due to two cars spinning into each other; racing resumed on lap 149
  • Lap 148: Dick May had a terminal crash; forcing him to exit the race
  • Lap 160: Caution due to a vehicle spinning out of control; racing resumed on lap 165
  • Lap 168: Darrell Waltrip took over the lead from Bill Elliott; eventually losing it to David Pearson on lap 231
  • Lap 179: Driveshaft issues managed to force Billy Smith out of the race
  • Lap 185: Steering issues managed to get the best of Neil Bonnett
  • Lap 196: Donnie Allison's engine would stop working properly; causing his early exit from the race
  • Lap 206: Jack Ingram's vehicle developed engine problems
  • Lap 224: Richard Childress' engine problem forced his early exit from the race
  • Lap 244: H.B. Bailey managed to overheat his vehicle; securing an unwanted early exit from the event
  • Lap 296: Caution due to Darrell Waltrip's accident; racing resumed on lap 303
  • Lap 298: David Pearson took over the lead from Darrell Waltrip and would dominate the remainder of the race
  • Lap 306: Caution due to a vehicle spinning out of control; racing resumed on lap 309
  • Finish: David Pearson was officially declared the winner of the event
  • References

    1979 Southern 500 Wikipedia

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