Underdog Parsons Wins
In 1973, Benny Parsons overcame difficult odds to become NASCAR’s premier series champion. The native of North Wilke boro, North Carolina, won only one race that year but relied on a game plan of consistency.
Parsons was in his third full season as the driver of L.G. Dewitt’s No. 72 Cup Series car in 1973. The Ellerbe, North Carolina-based team was considered an underdog against the highly funded operations of the day. But with crew chief Travis Carter guiding the team, there was reason to expect a strong season.
Cale Yarborough, driving Richard Howard’s No. 11 Chevrolet, famously returned to NASCAR that year after racing Indy cars for two seasons. With retired driving legend Junior Johnson managing the team, Yarborough felt he had a good chance to win his first NASCAR Cup Series championship.
Under NASCAR rules used in 1973, laps completed throughout the season served as the foundation for being crowned champion. In addition, points were awarded for the number of laps completed in a race along with finishes within the top-10.
Even though Yarborough logged four victories, 16 top-five finishes and 19 top-10 results, crashes at Talladega, Daytona, Bristol and Dover curtailed his title hopes. Parsons nearly lost the title in the season finale at North Carolina’s Rockingham Speedway after being caught up in a multi-car crash on lap 13 of the 492-lap race. He was left with a badly damaged car that looked to be out of the race.
Instead, crew members from several teams helped rebuild his car in the garage area. Parsons returned to the race, finished 28th and ended up 67 points ahead of Yarborough in the championship standings. It was the only Cup Series title of Parsons’ 21-year career.
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DAVID PEARSON , WHEELING THE NO.21 Wood Brothers Racing Mercury, won 11 of 18 races entered in 1973. The Spartanburg, South Carolina, driver logged all but one of those wins on superspeedways with his biggest triumph coming in the Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway. His season-ending record featured 14 finishes in the top 10 with eight pole positions. Pearson showcased his talents on a number of track configurations to produce a remarkable season.
ON MAY 27, 1973 , BUDDY BAKER, driving Nord Krauskopf’s No. 71 Dodge, led 229 of 400 laps to win the World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Charlotte native held off challenges from Richard Petty, who led 134 laps, as well as Cale Yarborough and David Pearson, who led 29 and 15 laps, respectively. Crew chief Harry Hyde orchestrated flawless pit stops throughout the 600-mile race that kept Baker in position to claim the victory.
BENNY PARSONS drove L.G. DeWitt’s No. 72 Chevrolet to 21 top-10 finishes on his way to the NASCAR Cup Series title. The No. 11 Chevrolet driven by Cale Yarborough and owned by Richard Howard won four times during the 1973 season.
DATE | LOCATION | WINNER
Jan.21 | Riverside International Raceway | Mark Donahue
Feb. 18 | Daytona International Speedway | Richard Petty
Feb. 25 | Richmond Raceway | Richard Petty
March 18 | Rockingham Speedway | David Pearson
March 25 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Cale Yarborough
April 1 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | David Pearson
April 8 | North Wilkesboro Speedway | Richard Petty
April 15 | Darlington Raceway | David Pearson
April 29 | Martinsville Speedway | David Pearson
May 6 | Talladega Superspeedway | David Pearson
May 12 | Fairgrounds Speedway – Nashville | Cale Yarborough
May 27 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | Buddy Baker
June 3 | Dover International Speedway | David Pearson
June 10 | Texas World Speedway | Richard Petty
June 17 | Riverside International Raceway | Bobby Allison
June 24 | Michigan International Speedway | David Pearson
July 4 | Daytona International Speedway | David Pearson
July 8 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Benny Parsons
July 22 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | David Pearson
Aug. 12 | Talladega Superspeedway | Dick Brooks
Aug. 25 | Fairgrounds Speedway – Nashville | Buddy Baker
Sept. 3 | Darlington Raceway | Cale Yarborough
Sept. 9 | Richmond Raceway | Richard Petty
Sept. 16 | Dover International Speedway | David Pearson
Sept. 23 | North Wilkesboro Speedway | Bobby Allison
Sept. 30 | Martinsville Speedway | Richard Petty
Oct. 7 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | Cale Yarborough
Oct. 21 | Rockingham Speedway | David Pearson