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1979:

Petty Edges Waltrip for No. 7

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By Ben White

Switching between an Oldsmobile and a Chevrolet, Richard Petty added a seventh NASCAR Cup Series championship trophy to his collection. Petty won five times and had 27-top-10 finishes in 31 starts.

The 1979 Cup Series season proved to be one of NASCAR’s most exciting, even though officials of the sport didn’t anticipate such a fate prior to the start of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 18.

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That race, however, ended with a fight between Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough after they crashed out while battling for the lead on the final lap. Allison’s older brother, Bobby, joined the fray and a national TV audience, many trapped in their homes by a massive east coast snowstorm, was introduced to the world of NASCAR.

Petty won his sixth of seven Daytona 500s in storybook fashion over Darrell Waltrip and A.J. Foyt. Petty had just undergone major stomach surgery two weeks earlier and was told by his doctors not to race. 

Also during the season, rookie-of-the-year Dale Earnhardt made his presence known and David Pearson split from Wood Brothers Racing following an unceremonious miscue on pit road at Darlington Raceway in the spring. Subbing for the injured Earnhardt in Rod Osterlund’s No. 2 Chevrolet during the Southern 500 at Darlington in September, Pearson claimed his third victory in the prestigious race.

Petty emerged with a record seventh NASCAR Cup Series championship, besting Waltrip and DiGard Racing in the final race of the season at Ontario Motor Speedway by a mere 13 points. Petty’s fifth-place finish in the final race to Waltrip’s eighth-place run secured the title.

1979

PRESIDENT: JIMMY CARTER 

NO. 1 AT THE BOX OFFICE: APOCALYPSE NOW

MOVIES TO WATCH: 10 AND ALIEN

NO. 1 SONG: “MY SARONA” BY THE KNACK

GALLON OF GAS: 90 CENTS

POP CULTURE: THE DUKES OF HAZARD AIRED ON CBS, SPANNED OVER SEVEN SEASONS, AND AT ONE POINT, WAS RANKED SECOND ONLY TO THE PRIME-TIME SOAP OPERA DALLAS. CALE YARBOROUGH GUEST STARRED ON THE SHOW. 

BEST DRIVER

Driving the No. 43 Petty Enterprises entry, Richard Petty logged five NASCAR Cup Series victories and 27- top-10 results en route to his seventh series championship. At age 42, Petty was still at the top of his game, winning races and contending for NASCAR’s top prize. He and crew chief Dale Inman placed the famed Petty blue and fluorescent red machine at the front to lead 1,149 laps during the 1979 season.

BEST RACE

No question, the 1979 Daytona 500 introduced NASCAR racing to millions of first-time viewers who watched the flag-to-flag coverage on CBS. A massive east coast snowstorm and the outcome of the race combined to expose the sport to a sizeable new audience. Initially considered a blackeye for NASCAR, the fight among Cale Yarborough, Donnie Allison and Bobby Allison at the end of the race was a milestone moment for the sport.

TOP CARS

Richard Petty’s No. 43 Petty Enterprises Oldsmobile/Chevrolet won five races and notched 27 top-10 results in 31 starts.

Darrell Waltrip’s No. 88 DiGard Racing Oldsmobile/Chevrolet went to Victory Lane seven times and had 22 top-10 finishes.

1979 Season Recap

DATE | LOCATION | WINNER

Jan. 14 | Riverside International Raceway | Darrell Waltrip

Feb. 18 | Daytona International Speedway | Richard Petty

March 4 | Rockingham Speedway | Bobby Allison 

March 11 | Richmond Raceway | Cale Yarborough

March 18 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | Buddy Baker

March 25 | North Wilkesboro Speedway | Bobby Allison

April 1 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Dale Earnhardt

April 8 | Darlington Raceway | Darrell Waltrip

April 22 | Martinsville Speedway | Richard Petty

May 6 | Talladega Superspeedway | Bobby Allison

May 12 | Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville | Cale Yarborough

May 20 | Dover Motor Speedway | Neil Bonnett

May 27 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | Darrell Waltrip

June 3 | Texas World Speedway | Darrell Waltrip

June 10 | Riverside International Raceway | Bobby Allison 

June 17 | Michigan International Speedway | Buddy Baker

July 4 | Daytona International Speedway | Neil Bonnett

July 14 | Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville | Darrell Waltrip

July 30 | Pocono Raceway | Cale Yarborough

Aug. 5 | Talladega Superspeedway | Darrell Waltrip

Aug. 19 | Michigan International Speedway | Richard Petty

Aug. 25 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Darrell Waltrip

Sept. 3 | Darlington Raceway | David Pearson

Sept. 9 | Richmond Raceway | Bobby Allison

Sep. 16 | Dover Motor Speedway | Richard Petty

Sept. 23 | Martinsville Speedway | Richard Petty

Oct. 7 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | Cale Yarborough 

Oct.14 | North Wilkesboro Speedway | Benny Parsons

Oct. 21 | Rockingham Speedway | Richard Petty

Nov. 4 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | Neil Bonnett

Nov. 18 | Ontario Motor Speedway | Benny Parsons

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