In the early part of the 1983 NASCAR Winston Cup campaign, NASCAR began cracking down on teams that were stepping beyond the rules. Early in the season, such disallowed items as illegal fuel cans, unapproved fuel cells, and other ingenious "modifications" were confiscated by NASCAR officials.
But threats failed to curtail the imagination of the sport's top mechanics. Throughout the season, a number of violations were detected and confiscated. The controversy came to a head in October, when seven-time champ Richard Petty won the Miller High Life 500, but was then found to be using illegal tires and a too-large engine. The scandal destroyed Petty's decades-long relationship with Petty Enterprises, and dogged him long after.
The article below follows these events and other season highlights, gives the final standings for the 1983 season, and provides plenty of pictures as well.
February 20, 1983: Daytona 500
Cale Yarborough pushes his Pontiac around Buddy Baker on the final lap to win his third Daytona 500. Yarborough was in a backup car after crashing his Chevrolet in qualifying. Cale topped the 200-mph barrier on his first qualifying lap but flipped and destroyed the car on the second lap.
Cale Yarborough's Chevrolet spirals through the air after bouncing off the wall during qualifications for the Feb. 20 Daytona 500. Yarborough was the first driver to officially top the 200-mph barrier at Daytona, at 200.550 mph. On his second qualifying lap, Cale lost control and demolished his car. NASCAR rules at the time specified that the car earned a qualifying position, not the driver. So, when the car was withdrawn, the pole speed was removed from the record books.
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March 13, 1983: Carolina 500
Richard Petty ends a 43-race winless streak and nips Bill Elliott by a bumper in the Carolina 500 at Rockingham. The triumph is the 196th of Petty's career.
April 10, 1983: TranSouth 500
Harry Gant slips past a faltering Darrell Waltrip with two laps remaining and wins the TranSouth 500 at Darlington Raceway. Waltrip holds on for second as his Chevrolet belches smoke during the final laps.
Neil Bonnett leads a pack of challengers, including Lake Speed, Darrell Waltrip, and Mark Martin, in the early stages of the March 13 Warner W. Hodgdon Carolina 500 at Rockingham's North Carolina Motor Speedway. Bonnett drove the #75 RahMoc Chevrolet in 1983 with sponsorship from California sportsman Warner W. Hodgdon. Bonnett won two races and finished sixth in the championship points standings.
May 1, 1983: Winston 500
Richard Petty noses out Benny Parsons and Lake Speed in a three-way finish to bag the Winston 500 at Talladega. Phil Parsons' Pontiac flips a dozen times in a 72nd-lap crash that involves 11 cars.
May 15, 1983: Mason-Dixon 500
Bobby Allison takes the points lead with a narrow victory over Darrell Waltrip in the Mason-Dixon 500 at Dover Downs International Speedway. The race finishes under the yellow flag as a torrential downpour hits the one-mile oval.
June 5, 1983
Ricky Rudd drives his Richard Childress-owned Chevrolet to victory in the 400-kilometer race at Riverside International Raceway. It is the first NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National triumph for the Rudd/Childress duo.
Darrell Waltrip takes the low groove as Richard Petty rides the high line during the May 7 Marty Robbins 420 at Nashville's Fairgrounds Raceway. The race was named to honor late country singer and NASCAR driver Marty Robbins. Waltrip put a licking on the field, leading for all but 38 laps. After the race, runner-up Bobby Allison said, "Darrell has too much of something. No one can beat him on the short tracks with that set up. A lot of us would like to know what it is he has."
July 4, 1983: Firecracker 400
Buddy Baker scoots into the lead and wins the Firecracker 400 at Daytona when Terry Labonte runs out of fuel two laps from the finish. It is Baker's 19th career NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National win and his first with the Wood Brothers team.
July 16, 1983: Nashville 420
Dale Earnhardt drives his Ford to victory in the Nashville 420 for his first short-track win in three years. Earnhardt outruns Darrell Waltrip by more than a half-lap to score his eighth career win.
Dale Earnhardt drove Bud Moore's sleek #15 Wrangler Ford to a pair of victories in 1983, including the July 31 Talladega 500. Earnhardt placed eighth in the final NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National points standings as 13 DNFs prevented him from challenging for the championship. Earnhardt drove for Moore for two seasons, then reunited with Richard Childress in 1984.
July 31, 1983: Talladega 500
Dale Earnhardt zips past Darrell Waltrip and scores a dramatic last-lap victory in the Talladega 500. Waltrip finishes second with Tim Richmond coming home third.
September 5, 1983: Southern 500
Bobby Allison withstands 97-degree heat and wins the Southern 500 at Darlington for his fourth win in the Labor Day classic. Bill Elliott finishes second for the eighth time in his career.
October 9, 1983: Miller High Life 500
Richard Petty scores a controversial win in Charlotte's Miller High Life 500. Petty leads the final 23 laps for his 198th career NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National win, but his team is fined $35,000 and docked 104 points following a postrace inspection. NASCAR officials discover illegal tires on Petty's Pontiac and an oversized engine.
Number 22 Bobby Allison and #21 Buddy Baker hook up in a tight draft during the June 19 Gabriel 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Allison finished second, while Baker placed seventh. Baker took over the controls of the Wood Brothers Ford in 1983 and was able to score one victory during the campaign. Allison posted six wins in the DiGard Racing Buick.
November 18, 1983
Richard Petty announces he will leave Petty Enterprises at the end of the 1983 season after 26 years. Petty's announcement comes in wake of the controversial Charlotte race, known as "Pettygate."
November 20, 1983
Bill Elliott scores his first career win in the season finale at Riverside. Elliott passes Benny Parsons with five laps remaining to seal the victory. Bobby Allison finishes ninth and wraps up his first NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National championship.
To see the final standings of the 1983 NASCAR Winston Cup season, go to the next page.
For more information on all things NASCAR, see:
- NASCAR Home Page
- NASCAR Season Recaps
- NASCAR Tracks
- NASCAR Results
- NASCAR Drivers
- How NASCAR Race Cars Work
- How the Daytona 500 Works