The 1984 Talladega 500 was a NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing event held at Talladega Superspeedway on July 29, 1984.
Although the race was plagued with the uncomfortably hot summer temperatures typically found in the Southern United States during late July, there were no thunderstorms sighted near the race track. It was the 19th of 30 races for the 1984 Winston Cup Grand National season and was telecast live flag to flag on the CBS television network. Cale Yarborough, the winner of that season's Daytona 500, Winston 500 earlier that season at Talladega, and Van Scoy Diamond 500 at Pocono, won the pole at a speed of 202.474 miles per hour or 325.850 kilometres per hour. Bill Elliott timed second.
Talladega Superspeedway, originally known as Alabama International Motor Superspeedway (AIMS), is a motorsports complex located north of Talladega, Alabama. It is located on the former Anniston Air Force Base in the small city of Lincoln. The track is a Tri-oval and was constructed by International Speedway Corporation, a business controlled by the France Family, in the 1960s. Talladega is most known for its steep banking and the unique location of the start/finish line - located just past the exit to pit road. The track currently hosts the NASCAR series such as the Monster Energy Cup Series, Xfinity Series, and the Camping World Truck Series. Talladega Superspeedway is the longest NASCAR oval with a length of 2.66 miles (4.28 km), and the track at its peak had a seating capacity of 175,000 spectators.
Four NASCAR Cup Series drivers failed to qualify for this race: Delma Cowart, J.D. McDuffie, Blackie Wangerin and Tommy Gale. Rounding out the race's top ten starters were Dale Earnhardt, Terry Labonte, dark horse racer Tommy Ellis, Buddy Baker, Darrell Waltrip, Neil Bonnett, Ron Bouchard, and rookie Rusty Wallace. Richard Petty, who'd won the Firecracker 400 earlier that month, qualified 11th following word that the Smithsonian Institution wanted to put on permanent display the racecar (a 1984 Pontiac Grand Prix stock car under the ownership of Curb Motorsports) with which he'd won Daytona.
Benny Parsons had qualified ninth for the race but crashed hard in practice and was not medically cleared to race, so he was brought up to the CBS Sports broadcast booth alongside Ken Squier and Ned Jarrett for the telecast. Working pit road was veteran MRN Radio broadcaster Mike Joy and National Speed Sport News editor Chris Economaki; Economaki also hosted a short feature (aired during a lengthy caution period) on the nearby Talladega Short Track and its participants' thoughts on someday racing at the superspeedway.
The race became one of the most competitive in racing history, as the lead changed 68 times among 16 drivers. Earnhardt, driving a Chevrolet Monte Carlo for Richard Childress, had taken the lead in Winston Cup points at that point of the season but had not won a race. He took the lead on the opening lap and was soon challenged by Yarborough, Baker, Bobby Allison, Petty, and Labonte. Petty passed Yarborough and Earnhardt on Lap 31 but Earnhardt beat him to the stripe; soon after Elliott Forbes-Robinson crashed and Petty's transmission broke on the subsequent pitstop.
Lap 157 provided the most serious accident of the day when Trevor Boys, racing in the top ten with Ellis, was clipped off Turn Four, spun, and flipped onto his roof at the pit road entrance before tumbling into the trioval grass. Boys climbed out of the car uninjured. Boys' final racing appearance came at the 2008 NAPA Auto Parts 200 Presented by Dodge where he finished in 35th due to problems with his transmission.
The finish shook into an eleven-car battle; Bouchard ran out of gas with three laps to go and Labonte held the lead; his crew chief Dale Inman radioed Labonte to get out of the lead with two to go fearing a last-lap pass, but by this point Harry Gant had raced into contention and was battling Earnhardt and Baker for second. On the final lap Earnhardt broke free; Labonte swung low to try and break the draft and Earnhardt drafted past up high with Baker; Baker and Labonte got hung together battling for second and Earnhardt broke away to a ten-length win with Baker edging Labonte for second and Allison edging Yarborough for fourth. It was the first win for Earnhardt with the Childress team and tenth career win. Earnhardt also became the first driver to win the Talladega 500 in back to back seasons.
Individual paychecks for each driver ranged from the winner's share of $47,100 ($108,577.42 when adjusted for inflation) to the last-place finisher's share of $1,800 ($4,149.46 when adjusted for inflation). NASCAR officials were authorized to hand over a total of $352,500 to all the qualifying drivers ($812,601.70 when adjusted for inflation).