The 1976 NASCAR Winston Cup season was filled with heart-stopping moments, from a last-lap crash between Richard Petty and David Pearson in the Daytona 500 to one between Dale Earnhardt and Dick Brooks at Atlanta International Raceway. The season was filled with triumph as well: Not only did veteran Cale Yarborough win his first NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National championship, but NASCAR also welcomed female driver Janet Guthrie, who finished 15th at the World 600.
In the following article, you can follow those events and more as you peruse the highlights of the 1976 season. You'll find the final standings, and of course, plenty of pictures.
February 8, 1976
NASCAR disallows the speeds of the three fastest qualifiers for the Daytona 500, leaving unheralded Ramo Stott on the pole. A.J. Foyt, Darrell Waltrip, and Dave Marcis have to requalify.
A ball of flame spits out from the rear of Buddy Baker's Ford after the engine blew on the 84th lap of the Daytona 500. Baker led in the early stages and ran with the leaders until the engine came apart. Baker and team owner Bud Moore acquired sponsorship from Norris Industries in 1976 after winning four races in 1975 with no financial backing. See more pictures of NASCAR.
David Pearson creeps across the finish line at 20 mph to beat Richard Petty in a stunning finish to the Daytona 500. Pearson and Petty swap the lead four times on the final lap and tangle off the fourth turn. Pearson gets his Mercury straightened out and crosses the finish line first.
May 2, 1976: Winston 500
Buddy Baker runs away from the field to win Talladega's Winston 500. Averaging a record 169.887 mph, Baker finishes 35 seconds ahead of runner-up Cale Yarborough.
Buddy Baker pushes his #15 Ford under Richard Petty at Talladega during the May 2 Winston 500. Baker held command most of the way, leading for 135 of the 188 laps, including the final 24 trips around the 2.66-mile oval. Baker ran away from the field, finishing 35 seconds ahead of runner-up Cale Yarborough. He averaged 169.887 mph, which at that time was a 500-mile record.
David Pearson weaves his way through a crash with three laps to go and captures the World 600 for his fifth win of the season. Janet Guthrie makes her NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National debut, finishing 15th.
August 1, 1976: Purolator 500
Richard Petty takes advantage of David Pearson's flat tire in the final two laps to win the Purolator 500 at Pocono International Raceway. The lead changes hands 48 times among eight different drivers.
Number 83 Ramo Stott and rookie Terry Ryan (#61) were the unlikely front-row starters in the Feb. 15 Daytona 500. Ryan, making his NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National debut, became the first rookie to start on the front row at Daytona. Stott retired with engine problems shortly after the halfway point, while Ryan finished sixth. Ryan drove in five races in 1976, finishing in the top 10 three times.
Dave Marcis claims his first win on a superspeedway in the Talladega 500. Marcis finds himself in the catbird seat when Buddy Baker has to pit for fuel with three laps remaining.
September 6, 1976: Southern 500
David Pearson leads the final 45 laps and drives to a 2.8-second victory over Richard Petty in the Southern 500 at Darlington. The win gives Pearson a victory in all three crown-jewel events on the NASCAR calendar: the Daytona 500, World 600, and Southern 500.
Cale Yarborough drove his #11 Junior Johnson/Holly Farms Chevrolet to the 1976 NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National championship. Yarborough won nine races along the way to the first of three consecutive titles. He finished last in the Daytona 500, but assumed command of the points chase in August. Yarborough beat Richard Petty by 195 points. Petty had pulled within 97 points with two races to go, but a 28th-place finish in the next race dashed his championship hopes.
Donnie Allison drives to a convincing win in the National 500 at Charlotte and survives a stormy postrace teardown to notch his first NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National victory since 1971.
November 7, 1976: Dixie 500
Dave Marcis outruns David Pearson and Donnie Allison in a three-car shootout to win the Dixie 500 at Atlanta International Raceway. Newcomer Dale Earnhardt survives a wicked tumble with 49 laps to go.
Qualifying for the 1976 Daytona 500 was unusual. A.J. Foyt, in Hoss Ellington's #28 Chevrolet, was quickest with a speed of 187.477 mph. Aside from the quick laps turned in by Darrell Waltrip and Dave Marcis, virtually all of the others were 8-10 mph off the pace. The discrepancy led NASCAR to reinspect the quick cars. The times of Foyt, Waltrip, and Marcis were disallowed; Foyt and Waltrip because nitrous oxide bottles were found in their cars; Marcis for a radiator technicality.
David Pearson posts his 10th win of the year in the 500-miler at Ontario Motor Speedway. Cale Yarborough claims his first NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National championship by a 195-point margin over Richard Petty.
For the full standings for the 1976 NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National season, see the next page.
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