NASCAR In 1977 – The 75th anniversary edition

Editor’s Note: NASCAR celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2023. SPEED SPORT was founded in 1934 and was already on its way to becoming America’s motorsport authority when NASCAR was established. As a result, we’ll bring you Part 30 of a 75-part series on the history of NASCAR as told in the pages of National Speed ​​Sport News and SPEED SPORT Magazine.

Cale Yarborough finished the 1977 NASCAR Winston Cup season where it did in 1976: leading in points.

Yarborough began his quest for his second consecutive Winston Cup championship at Riverside (Calif.) Int’l Raceway and led 102 of 199 laps but finished second behind David Pearson. Meanwhile, the season’s opening race sponsor and title sponsor of the Winston Cup division, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co., was entering its seventh year of NASCAR sponsorship.

The Feb. 16 issue of National Speed ​​Sport News gave some of NASCAR’s top drivers, including Yarborough and Richard Petty, the chance to give their thoughts on the partnership.

“When RJ Reynolds stepped in, it was a god thing,” said six-time champion Petty. “Winston’s participation has attracted more fans by making the competition more intense and attendance is increasing every year.”

According to an annual motorsport survey conducted by Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., NASCAR Winston Cup events drew 1,431,292 spectators in 1976, making it the most watched racing brand in the world. Yarborough, fresh off his maiden title, didn’t need numbers to convince him: “The people from Winston who come racing have done more for the sport than anything else since I’ve been racing.”

Ralph Seagraves, special events manager at RJ Reynolds, agrees with Yarborough: “Our six years with NASCAR have been very rewarding and I’m sure the seventh will be even more rewarding.”

1977 Daytona 500 Results

NASCAR’s most prestigious race, the Daytona 500, has fallen to the stocky Winston Cup legend. Yarborough outlasted Benny Parsons to win the 500m for the second time. The win earned him a clean sweep at Daytona Int’l Speedway as he won his 125-mile qualifying race and the International Race of Champions event.

Twelfth at Daytona was rookie Janet Guthrie, who became the first woman to compete in the Winston Cup since 1965 with her 15th-place finish in the 1976 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

This season, she competed for Citicorp Rookie of the Year honors in a Chevrolet sponsored by Kelly Girl. After finishing 10th at Michigan Int’l Speedway, a season-best sixth at Bristol Motor Speedway, and ninth at Charlotte Motor Speedway and North Carolina Motor Speedway, Guthrie finished the season third in the rookie points race and 23rd in the total.

Ricky Rudd was the 1977 Cup Series Rookie of the Year. (NASCAR photo)

Ricky Rudd: down to one engine

Twenty-year-old Ricky Rudd of Chesapeake, Va., raced in 25 of 30 races and was named rookie of the year.

Yet Rudd, like many other drivers, ran from stock market to stock market without a major sponsor to offset the cost of competing at NASCAR’s top level. At the July 31 race at Pocono Raceway, Rudd’s team was down to its last viable engine.

The financial pressure on Rudd became evident after his strong seventh-place finish at Pocono: “We looked good today, but the future isn’t as good,” Rudd said. “We may have to park it.”

Luckily, Rudd scraped together enough money to buy the Di-Gard team a new engine after his last engine blew up during practice in Talladega, Ala. a Winston Cup race since 1974: fourth. Rudd collected 10 top-10 finishes en route to the rookie title.

Yarborough on a tear

Defending Winston Cup champion Yarborough started the Winston Cup schedule after winning at Daytona. He beat rising star Darrell Waltrip at Richmond (Va.) Raceway and edged Petty to win at North Wilkesboro (NC) Speedway.

In April, Yarborough staged the kind of race most drivers don’t even dream of. He led 495 of the 500 laps to win the Southeastern 500 at Bristol (Ten.) Motor Speedway by even-numbered laps. A week later, the point leader won the rain-shortened Virginia 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

A fourteen-time winner at Martinsville Speedway and number 2 in points, Petty finished third at Martinsville, 20th at Talladega and fifth at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. That less than stellar performance by Petty’s standards and a Chevrolet’s sixth straight win prompted the six-time champion to vent his frustrations in the May 11 issue of NSSN:

“NASCAR should change the rules about this forward slope (Chevrolets), but they won’t change anything,” Petty said. Then he added: “They cut each other’s throats, though, because (the fans) don’t want to come and watch a Chevrolet win every race.”

Yet the controversial Monte Carlo, with its engine placed farther back in the chassis than in other Winston Cup cars, and not the more maligned, slant-nosed Chevrolet S-3 Laguna Petty mentioned, sat in the victory lane for most of Chevrolet’s 21 wins. this season. Petty’s 1974 Dodge Charger even edged out these cars designed for superspeedways in each of its five wins.

However, Petty’s superspeedway success and Yarborough’s cooler second half (he won two of the last 15 races after starting seven out of 15) did not change the final standings. Yarborough completed all 30 events, won nine and racked up 25 top-five and 27 top-10 finishes en route to a record 5,000 points and his second consecutive Winston Cup title.

In NASCAR’s other divisions, Jerry Cook won the modified title for the sixth time, this time by 1,101 points. Cook had now finished first or second in points changed every year since 1969.

In the deceased role model division, Butch Lindley took the honors, while Bill Schmitt was the champion for Winston West.

Leave a Comment