By 1977, the NASCAR Winston Cup organization was pulling itself out of the shackles of the post-factory days. Corporate sponsors were jumping on the bandwagon, new team owners found the NASCAR scene appealing, and a few of the surviving independent teams had beefed up their operations. The starting fields were full again, the grandstands were close to capacity, competition was closer, and television ratings were climbing steadily.
You can learn more about this banner year in the following article, including the season's highlights, final standings, and plenty of pictures.
February 20, 1977: Daytona 500
Darrell Waltrip's #88 Chevrolet forges ahead of Neil Bonnett on the opening lap of the April 24 Virginia 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Waltrip held his Gatorade/ DiGard Racing Chevy up front for most of the early laps, but succumbed to brake failure near the midway point and struggled to finish 21st. Pole-sitter Bonnett drifted to a 12th-place finish. See more pictures of NASCAR.
April 3, 1977: Rebel 500
Darrell Waltrip wins the race back to the yellow flag to capture the Rebel 500 at Darlington. Waltrip weaves his way through a crash scene in the fourth turn, passing David Pearson, Richard Petty, and Donnie Allison on the final green-flag lap.
May 15, 1977: Mason-Dixon 500
Cale Yarborough roars back from two black flags, a pair of unscheduled pit stops, and a four-lap deficit to win the Mason-Dixon 500 at Dover Downs. It is Yarborough's sixth win of the season.
Number 11 Cale Yarborough leads #1 Donnie Allison, and #88 Darrell Waltrip in the Oct. 23 American 500 at North Carolina Motor Speedway. Cale clinched his second straight NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National championship with his fourth-place finish. Allison started the #1 Hoss Ellington Chevy on the pole and went on to win the race, leading the final 72 laps. Waltrip came home third in the DiGard/Gatorade Chevy.
July 4, 1977: Firecracker 400
Richard Petty wins the Firecracker 400 at Daytona. For the first time since 1949, three women drivers are in the starting field. Janet Guthrie, Christine Beckers, and Lella Lombardi all start the race.
July 16, 1977: Nashville 420
Scoring problems mar Darrell Waltrip's victory in the Nashville 420 at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. Richard Petty is flagged in second place, but three days later he is dropped to third, two laps off the pace.
Skip Manning's #92 Chevrolet runs just ahead of #1 Donnie Allison in the late stages of the Aug. 7 Talladega 500 at Alabama International Motor Speedway. Manning, the 1976 Rookie of the Year, surprised the railbirds with a fantastic run at Talladega, and was poised to win until smoke billowed from his car in the final laps. Allison's Chevy, with Darrell Waltrip driving in relief, took the lead with six laps to go. Allison got credit for the victory, the eighth of his career.
August 7, 1977: Talladega 500
Donnie Allison, with relief help from Darrell Waltrip, outruns Cale Yarborough and Skip Manning to win the Talladega 500.
August 28, 1977: Volunteer 400
Cale Yarborough racks up his eighth win of the year at Bristol's Volunteer 400. Yarborough's Junior Johnson Chevrolet fails the postrace inspection for the second time in a row. Team owner Johnson is fined $500. Janet Guthrie finishes sixth, her best NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National effort.
When Nord Krauskopf bowed out of NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National racing halfway through the 1977 season, the mysterious Jim Stacy purchased all of his Dodge equipment. Repainted white and given the number 5, Neil Bonnett drove the car during the latter half of the campaign. Bonnett won the pole for the July 4 Daytona Firecracker 400 in Stacy's maiden voyage into the NASCAR waters.
September 5, 1977: Southern 500
Quick pit work nets David Pearson his second straight win in the Southern 500 at Darlington. Darrell Waltrip earns the nickname "Jaws" at the same event. Waltrip, Yarborough, and D.K. Ulrich are involved in a 227th-lap crash. In response to Ulrich's inquiry as to what happened, Yarborough says, "That Jaws ran into you."
September 11, 1977: Capital City 400
Neil Bonnett scores his first career NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National win in the Capital City 400 at Richmond. Bonnett outruns Richard Petty by seven seconds.
Cale Yarborough leads a pack of snarling challengers during the Daytona 500. A.J. Foyt's #51 Chevrolet is seen sniffing the tailpipes of Cale's #11 Chevy. David Pearson and Richard Petty are in hot pursuit. Cale started fourth on the grid, led for more than half the race, and motored to his 41st career NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National victory. Foyt started on the front row, led briefly, and finished sixth.
November 6, 1977
Darrell Waltrip denies David Pearson his 100th victory at Atlanta International Raceway. Waltrip makes a final-lap pass as darkness descends on the track. Unable to see through his tinted windshield, Pearson backs off and accepts second place.
November 20, 1977
Neil Bonnett outruns Richard Petty in an epic duel over the final 10 laps to win at Ontario Motor Speedway. Third-place finisher Cale Yarborough takes his second straight NASCAR Winston Cup championship.
For the full standings of the 1977 NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National season, see the next section.
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