The 1980 NASCAR Winston Cup season began with a refreshing outlook for a sport that had endured a tumultuous trek through peaks and valleys in the preceding 10 years. Through a complex, shifting panorama, NASCAR overcame innumerable obstacles in the 1970s, and emerged in 1980 with one of the most thrilling championship chases in NASCAR history, between sophomore Dale Earnhardt and veteran Cale Yarborough.
The article that follows details this exciting NASCAR Winston Cup season, from season highlights to the year's final standings, and with plenty of pictures to capture the action.
February 17, 1980: Daytona 500
Buddy Baker leads a pack of cars off the fourth turn in the Feb. 17 Daytona 500. The Charlotte native drove his Ranier Racing Oldsmobile to an impressive victory after many years of hard luck in The Great American Race. It was Baker's 18th Daytona 500 start. He won $102,175, the first time a NASCAR winner took home more than $100,000 in a single event. See more pictures of NASCAR.
Sophomore Dale Earnhardt fends off a pesky Rusty Wallace to score his first superspeedway victory in the Atlanta 500. Earnhardt comes from the 31st starting position to beat Wallace by 9.55 seconds. Wallace was making his NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National debut in a Chevrolet owned by Roger Penske.
April 13, 1980: Rebel 500
David Pearson, making his first start in the Hoss Ellington Chevrolet, is out front when rain curtails the Rebel 500 at Darlington after 258 miles. It is Pearson's 105th career NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National victory.
Cale Yarborough's #11 Chevrolet runs just ahead of #88 Darrell Waltrip and #27 Benny Parsons in the May 10 Music City USA 420 at the Nashville Fairgrounds Raceway. The two annual events at the .596-mile banked oval were, at that time, the only NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National races run under the lights. Yarborough started on the pole and fended off challenges from Waltrip in the early laps. Cale went on to finish third with Waltrip fourth.
Darrell Waltrip erases a four-lap deficit and storms back to win the Virginia 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Waltrip violates a new rule stating teams aren't permitted to change tires during caution periods.
June 8, 1980
Darrell Waltrip passes Neil Bonnett on the final lap to win the 400-kilometer race on Riverside's road course. Waltrip makes the decisive pass in the ninth turn of the last lap and edges Bonnett by a car length.
Neil Bonnett and Dale Earnhardt run in close formation in the June 15 400-miler at Michigan International Speedway. Earnhardt was leading with 28 laps remaining when his #2 Chevrolet dropped a cylinder, allowing Benny Parsons to motor home first. Bonnett finished fourth.
Neil Bonnett drives his Mercury to a narrow decision over Buddy Baker to win the Coca-Cola 500 at Pocono. Title contender Richard Petty crashes hard on the 57th lap and suffers a broken neck. Tim Richmond, making his NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National debut, finishes 12th.
September 1, 1980: Southern 500
Sophomore driver Terry Labonte scores his first NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National victory in the Southern 500 at Darlington. Labonte comes from fourth to first when a crash wipes out the three leaders in the closing laps.
Donnie Allison leans out the window to guide his #12 Oldsmobile back to the pits after an engine failure in the Aug. 3 Talladega 500. Allison was the latest driver to take the controls of the Kennie Childers-owned car. Childers entered NASCAR racing in late 1978 and used seven drivers through the first two years. The others were Harry Gant, Neil Bonnett, Lennie Pond, Jack Ingram, Buck Simmons, and Butch Lindley.
Dale Earnhardt leads the final 13 laps to Martinsville's Old Dominion 500, an event marred by 17 cautions. Earnhardt averages less than 70 mph in his fifth career NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National win.
November 2, 1980: Atlanta Journal 500
Cale Yarborough wins the Atlanta Journal 500 at Atlanta International Raceway to move to within 29 points of Dale Earnhardt in the championship chase. Earnhardt, who has led the standings since the second race of the season, finishes third.
Dale Earnhardt and future wife Teresa Houston celebrate in victory lane following the second annual Busch Clash at Daytona International Speedway. The sophomore sensation shot past Darrell Waltrip on the final lap and scored a one-car-length victory in the special Speedweeks event for the previous season's pole winners. Earnhardt won $50,000 in the 20-lap, 50-mile race.
Benny Parsons wins the season finale at Ontario Motor Speedway as Dale Earnhardt captures his first NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National title. Earnhardt rallies back from a lap deficit to finish fifth. His final margin of victory over Cale Yarborough, who finishes third at Ontario, is 19 points.
Continue on to the next page to see the final standings of the 1980 NASCAR Winston Cup season.
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1980 NASCAR Winston Cup StandingsDale Earnhardt took the championship points lead in the Daytona 500 and staved off challenges by Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough to capture the 1980 NASCAR Winston Cup title. Earnhardt became the first driver to win Rookie of the Year and championship honors in back-to-back seasons.
1980 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion Dale Earnhardt
Petty was within 48 points of Earnhardt in late July, but he broke his neck in a crash at Pocono. Petty concealed the injury from NASCAR so he could continue racing. Relief drivers assisted Petty but he fell from contention.
Yarborough began his rally in September. He trailed by 173 points following the Richmond event, but then posted a series of top-10 finishes. Going into the season finale at Ontario, Calif., Earnhardt had a narrow 29-point lead.
Earnhardt fell a lap off the pace at Ontario, but muscled his way back onto the lead lap and scrambled to a fifth-place finish. The effort put him 19 points ahead of Yarborough, who took third at Ontario, and gave Earnhardt his first title.
For the full standings for the 1980 NASCAR Winston Cup season, see the chart below.
1980 NASCAR Winston Cup Standings
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