Newcomer Dale Earnhardt Surprises
During 1980, Dale Earnhardt showed tremendous talent by becoming NASCAR’s Cup Series champion in only his second full season. The native of Kannapolis, North Carolina, won five races on short tracks and superspeedway.
After earning NASCAR’s rookie-of-the- year award in 1979, second-generation driver Dale Earnhardt enjoyed one of his best seasons the following year. His No. 2 Rod Osterlund-owned entries were being tuned by veteran crew chief Jake Elder and running strong. Earn- hardt and Elder were contenders at every event that season and they went to Victory Lane at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, Martinsville Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Cale Yarborough, driving for legendary car owner Junior Johnson, had won consecutive championships in 1976, ’77 and ’78 and he wanted a fourth title on his résumé. It was Earnhardt, however, who prevailed, leading the point standings throughout the 29-race season other than being second following the season-opening Daytona 500.
Yarborough logged six victories with 22 top-10 results, but crashes and engine issues in four of the 31 events kept him behind Earnhardt throughout the year with no real opportunities to close the gap. From the beginning of the season, Earnhardt faced criticism from other drivers for racing too aggressively. Many of the top stars of the era had discussions with him about toning down his often rough style of driving. Still, he won races and held his own, especially when the win was in sight.
Earnhardt capped his first of seven NASCAR Cup Series titles by finishing fifth in the season finale at Cali- fornia’s Ontario Motor Speedway. His consistent 19 top-five finishes and 24 top-10 results were enough to keep Yarborough’s effort’s solidly at bay.
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CALE YARBOROUGH, switching between an Oldsmobile and a Chevrolet owned by Junior Johnson, put together a strong season under the direction of crew chief Tim Brewer. The No. 11 team was either running up front or dealing with mechanical issues. Yarborough won six times and was in the title hunt for most of the season, but too many DNFs, including a cylinder-head issue at Richmond Raceway in the fall, ended his hopes of a fourth championship.
ON APRIL 13, DAVID Pearson joined forces with team owner Hoss Ellington and won the Rebel 500 at Darlington Raceway, a track where he enjoyed so much success while driving for Wood Brothers Racing. The native of Spartanburg, South Carolina, led 99 of 367 laps on the tricky 1.366-mile oval as he held off Benny Parsons in the M.C. Anderson Racing Chevrolet by 3.3 seconds to seal his 10th-career victory at the track.
SWITCHING BETWEEN an Oldsmobile and a Chevrolet, Cale Yarborough won six races for team owner and former driver Junior Johnson. Dale Earnhardt wheeled the No. 2 entries owned by Rod Osterlund to five victories, 19 top-five finishes and 24 top-10 results.
DATE | LOCATION | WINNER
Jan. 13 | Riverside International Raceway | Darrell Waltrip
Feb. 17 | Daytona International Speedway | Buddy Baker
Feb. 24 | Richmond Raceway | Darrell Waltrip
March 9 | Rockingham Speedway | Cale Yarborough
March 16 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | Dale Earnhardt
March 30 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Dale Earnhardt
April 13 | Darlington Raceway | David Pearson
April 20 | North Wilkesboro Speedway | Richard Petty
April 27 | Martinsville Speedway | Darrell Waltrip
May 4 | Talladega Superspeedway | Buddy Baker
May 10 | Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway | Richard Petty
May 18 | Dover International Speedway | Bobby Allison
May 25 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | Benny Parsons
June 1 | Texas World Speedway | Cale Yarbrough
June 8 | Riverside International Raceway | Darrell Waltrip
June 15 | Michigan International Speedway | Benny Parsons
July 4 | Daytona International Speedway | Bobby Allison
July 12 | Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway | Dale Earnhardt
July 27 | Pocono Raceway | Neil Bonnett
Aug. 3 | Talladega Superspeedway | Neil Bonnett
Aug. 17 | Michigan International Speedway | Cale Yarborough
Aug. 23 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Cale Yarborough
Sept. 1 | Darlington Raceway | Terry Labonte
Sept. 7 | Richmond Raceway | Bobby Allison
Sept. 14 | Dover International Speedway | Darrell Waltrip
Sept. 21 | North Wilkesboro Speedway | Bobby Allison
Sept. 28 | Martinsville Speedway | Dale Earnhardt
Oct. 5 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | Dale Earnhardt
Oct. 19 | Rockingham Speedway | Cale Yarborough
Nov. 2 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | Cale Yarborough
Nov. 15 | Ontario Motor Speedway | Benny Parsons