Petty and Yarborough
The 1974 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season was tested heavily by inflation, high interest rates, the Arab oil embargo and the ever-rising cost of auto racing. Each created difficult challenges for competitors and fans to overcome.
The energy crisis prompted Bill France Jr., president of NASCAR, to mandate race distances for the first 15 of 30 Cup Series races be reduced by 10 percent. Major team owners such as Cotton Owens, Ray Nichels, Banjo Matthews and Ray Fox elected to curtail or end their racing operations due to rising costs and limited sponsorship.
Still, some of the very best on-track competition was evident with every race on the circuit. Week after week, drivers Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough consistently made headlines as race winners, while David Pearson’s limited schedule with Wood Brothers Racing produced seven victories. Bobby Allison won on the short track in Richmond, Va., driving his own Chevrolet, and again in the season finale at California’s Ontario Motor Speedway in an AMC Matador owned by Roger Penske.
Further, the Cup Series points system was overhauled in 1974 and was the fourth procedure used to determine the series champion since NASCAR was formed in February 1948. It was determined by money winnings, multiplied by the number of races started, multiplied by 1,000, giving
the number of points earned. As a result, Petty and Yarborough ran away with the championship. At year’s end, the point system was changed again amid controversy and confusion.
Also, rookie Earl Ross, a Canadian, was a surprise winner at Martinsville Speedway in a Chevrolet fielded by Junior Johnson. Ross took the lead from Buddy Baker with 79 laps remaining and went on to collect his only Cup Series victory.
PRESIDENT: RICHARD NIXON
NO. 1 SONG: “THE WAY WE WERE,” BY BARBARA STREISAND
TOP HEADLINES: PRESIDENT NIXON RESIGNS OVER WATERGATE SCANDAL; OIL EMBARGO CREATES LONG LINES AT GAS PUMPS
RICHARD PETTY DEFENDED HIS 1973 Daytona 500 victory and went on to establish himself as the driver to beat for 1974. The Randleman, N.C., native mastered the superspeedways and short tracks, winning one-third of the Cup Series races on the 30-race schedule. His famed fluorescent red and Petty blue Dodge rolled down pit road to Victory Lane 10 times under the direction of crew chief Dale Inman. Petty collected his fifth of seven championships that season.
IN JULY’S FIRECRACKER 400 AT Daytona International Speedway, David Pearson hit the brakes during the final lap, allowing Richard Petty to take the lead. As the two drivers came off of turn four, Pearson dropped low and drafted past Petty at the stripe to take the win by a mere car length. The lead changed 45 times, a race record that stood until 2010. Cale Yarborough and Buddy Baker officially tied for third.
RICHARD PETTY’S No. 43 Dodge Charger collected 10 victories, 23 top-10 finishes and the series championship. Cale Yarborough’s Chevrolet Chevelle had one less top-five finish than Petty, and Yarborough ended up second.
DATE | LOCATION | WINNER
Jan. 26 | Riverside International Raceway | Cale Yarborough
Feb. 17 | Daytona International Speedway | Richard Petty
Feb. 24 | Richmond International Raceway | Bobby Allison
March 3 | North Carolina Speedway | Richard Petty
March 17 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Cale Yarborough
March 24 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | Cale Yarborough
April 7 | Darlington Raceway | David Pearson
April 21 | North Wilkesboro Speedway | Richard Petty
April 28 | Martinsville Speedway | Cale Yarborough
May 5 | Talladega Superspeedway | David Pearson
May 12 | Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway | Richard Petty
May 19 | Dover International Speedway | Cale Yarborough
May 26 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | David Pearson
June 9 | Riverside International Raceway | Cale Yarborough
June 16 | Michigan International Speedway | Richard Petty
July 4 | Daytona International Speedway | David Pearson
July 14 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Cale Yarborough
July 20 | Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway | Cale Yarborough
July 28 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | Richard Petty
Aug. 4 | Pocono Raceway | Richard Petty
Aug. 11 | Talladega Superspeedway | Richard Petty
Aug. 25 | Michigan International Speedway | David Pearson
Sept. 2 | Darlington Raceway | Cale Yarborough
Sept. 8 | Richmond International Raceway | Richard Petty
Sept. 15 | Dover International Speedway | Richard Petty
Sept. 22 | North Wilkesboro Speedway | Cale Yarborough
Sept. 29 | Martinsville Speedway | Earl Ross
Oct. 6 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | David Pearson
Oct. 20 | North Carolina Speedway | David Pearson
Nov. 24 | Ontario Motor Speedway | Bobby Allison