During the 1973 NASCAR Winston Cup season, NASCAR had not given up hope for small engines, though the lack of team sponsors prevented the sanctioning body from putting the heavily restricted big engines out to pasture.
Although David Parsons enjoyed a record wrecking year in 1973, winning 10 of 15 starts on superspeedways and 11 of 18 for the season, the unsponsored team of L.G. DeWitt and Benny Parsons won a single race and took the NASCAR Winston Cup championship trophy in a significant upset. Read about the 1973 NASCAR season in this article, including highlights, photos, and full standings.
January 21, 1973: Winston Western 500
Mark Donohue drives his Roger Penske Matador to a surprising win in the season-opening Winston Western 500 at Riverside. Donohue's first win comes in his fifth NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National start.
A gaggle of cars run in tight formation in the second Twin 125-miler at Daytona International Speedway. Shown are #77 Charlie Roberts, #61 Clarence Lovell, #8 Ed Negre, #48 James Hylton, #52 Earl Ross, #18 Joe Frasson, and #30 Roy Mayne. Lovell and Roberts failed to qualify for the Daytona 500.
See more pictures of NASCAR.
February 18, 1973: Daytona 500
Richard Petty outlasts a speedy Buddy Baker to post his fourth win in the Daytona 500. Pole-sitter Baker leads most of the way but is foiled by an engine failure while running second with six laps to go.
March 25, 1973: Southeastern 500
Cale Yarborough, back in NASCAR's fold after a two-year exile in USAC Indy Cars, drives Junior Johnson's Chevrolet to an overwhelming victory in the Southeastern 500 at Bristol. Yarborough leads all 500 laps.
Number 4 John Sears, #28 Gordon Johncock, and #50 A.J. Foyt engage in a speedy three-abreast duel in the Daytona 500. Foyt went on to record a fifth-place finish. Sears, a 10-year veteran of NASCAR Grand National competition, hung up his helmet after the 1973 season. He quit to honor the wishes of his mother, who was fearful of the high speeds attained on the superspeedways.
April 15, 1973: Rebel 500
David Pearson avoids a late-race crash and drives his Mercury to a 13-lap win in Darlington's Rebel 500. Benny Parsons finishes second.
May 6, 1973: Winston 500
David Pearson steers clear of a massive 21-car crash and records an easy win in the Winston 500 at Talladega. Only 17 cars in the 60-car starting field finish.
Buddy Baker's #71 Dodge and David Pearson's Mercury qualified on the front row in the May 6 Winston 500 at Talladega. Pearson enjoyed a phenomenal season, winning 11 of 18 starts including 10 of 15 on superspeedways. Pearson never wound up lower than third in the races in which he was running at the finish. He lapped the field during his easy win in the Winston 500.
June 24, 1973: Motor State 400
David Pearson noses out Buddy Baker in the Motor State 400 at Michigan, the first race staged at the two-mile oval since Roger Penske became owner and promoter. The race is the only NASCAR event at Michigan in 1973. Penske elects to replace the summer NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National event with an Indy Car race.
July 8, 1973: Volunteer 500
Points leader Benny Parsons drives his unsponsored Chevrolet to an impressive win in the Volunteer 500 at Bristol International Speedway. Parsons finishes seven laps ahead of runner-up L.D. Ottinger.
The 1973 Daytona 500 came down to a battle between the Dodges of Buddy Baker and Richard Petty. Baker won the pole and led most of the way, but the savvy Petty scrambled into contention in the late stages. Petty assumed command with a lightning-fast 8.6-second pit stop with a dozen laps remaining. Baker shortened Petty's lead each lap, but the engine let go with six laps remaining. Petty went on to win his fourth Daytona 500.
August 12, 1973: Talladega 500
Dick Brooks posts perhaps the biggest upset win in NASCAR history in the Talladega 500. Brooks is behind the wheel of a Plymouth owned by the Crawford Brothers, a team that has never finished above 16th in a NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National event. Larry Smith, 1972 Rookie of the Year, loses his life in an early crash.
September 23, 1973: Wilkes 400
Bobby Allison runs down Richard Petty on the final lap to win the Wilkes 400 at North Wilkesboro Speedway. It is Allison's second win of the season.
October 7, 1973: National 500
Cale Yarborough and Richard Petty lap the field three times as they finish 1-2 in the National 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Controversy flares as NASCAR inspectors find the engines in Yarborough's Chevrolet and Petty's Dodge measure larger than the cubic inch limit. The finish stands with no penalties.
Dick Brooks' #22 Plymouth leads the charge off the fourth turn in the Talladega 500. Brooks took the lead with seven laps remaining and motored home first to produce a stunning upset. Driving the unsponsored Crawford Brothers Plymouth, Brooks overcame a pit-road accident, overheating problems, and long pit stops by a ragtag crew. It was the final NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National victory for the Plymouth nameplate.
October 9, 1973
Bobby Allison, who finished third in the controversial Charlotte race, announces he is quitting NASCAR. "On account of NASCAR's arbitrary and capricious conduct, I find it necessary to withdraw from the remaining races this season."
October 15, 1973
Bobby Allison settles his differences with NASCAR in a tense meeting with Bill France, Jr., in Atlanta. NASCAR promises to increase scrutiny in the prerace inspections.
October 21, 1973: American 500
David Pearson captures his 11th win in 18 starts with a season-ending victory in the American 500 at Rockingham's North Carolina Motor Speedway. Benny Parsons pits for repairs after an early crash. The help of several teams allow him to get back into the race and finish 28th. Parsons holds on to win the NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National championship by 67.15 points over Cale Yarborough.
To see the full standings for the 1973 NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National season, go to the next section.
For more information on all things NASCAR, see:
1973 NASCAR Winston Cup StandingsBenny Parsons, driving the unsponsored L.G. DeWitt Chevrolet, pulled a major upset by winning the 1973 NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National championship despite only winning one race.
1973 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion Benny Parsons
Parsons took the points lead with a third-place finish at Talladega in early May and never gave up the lead. He held off a late rally by Cale Yarborough to win by only 67.15 points.
Under NASCAR's points system, in which points per lap completed were factored in, Parsons was unaware of what position he would have to finish in at the finale at Rockingham to seal the championship. Parsons crashed early, but his team was able to make miraculous repairs to get him back into the race. He completed enough laps to wrap up the 1973 title.
Five drivers had a mathematical chance to win the championship entering the final event of the 28-race season. Winless drivers Cecil Gordon and James Hylton finished third and fourth, while six-time winner Richard Petty placed fifth in the final standings. For the full standings of the season, see the chart below.
1973 NASCAR Winston Cup Standings
||Coo Coo Marlin||4,233||0
For more information on all things NASCAR, see: