Parsons adds road course win to resume

Sunday, June 11, 1978 – Benny Parsons, who won a Daytona 500 in 1972 and a premier series championship in ’73, finally won on a road course when he outlasted the competition to capture the NAPA 400 at Riverside International Raceway. The win came in Parsons’ 17th attempt at the 2.62-mile layout.

Parsons, 36, drove his L.G. DeWitt-owned Monte Carlo to the front, passing Bobby Allison with 16 laps remaining in the 95-lap affair. It was his third win of the year, coming on the heels of victories at Richmond, Va. and Darlington, S.C.

Parsons’ pit crew was the same group pitting the No. 11 Oldsmobile fielded by Junior Johnson and driven by Cale Yarborough. Parsons asked for the help in an effort to save money by not bringing additional crewmen on the trip.

Yarborough, the No. 2 qualifier, led 47 laps, most of anyone. However, he was penalized 30 seconds by NASCAR for improper pitting – he used an illegal shortcut to get to pit road after suffering a flat tire.

Runner-up Richard Petty saw his winless streak reach 28 races at Riverside. The six-time series champion had not won since the July Daytona race of the previous season.

Hershel McGriff won a sportsman/modified combo race, the Warner W. Hodgdon 200, contested earlier that day at Riverside. McGriff then came back to finish 17th in the Cup event.

Yarborough wins, but no fan of TWS

Sunday, June 1, 1980 – Cale Yarborough scored the 65th win of his NASCAR premier series career when he won the NASCAR 400 at Texas World Speedway in College Station, Texas. Yarborough led 110 laps in the 200-lap race, including the final 65. Richard Petty finished second and Bobby Allison third, both one lap down.

To say Yarborough wasn’t a fan of the rough 2-mile racing surface at TWS would be an understatement. Yarborough said he had “driven on dirt tracks that weren’t this rough” and added after winning “If I had my way, I’d never run here again.”

Yarborough had other reasons to not be a fan of the track besides the rough surface. In 1969 he was involved in a crash that left him with a shoulder injury so severe doctors initially told him he would likely never race again. In ’79, he was tossed out of the garage before practice when security guards didn’t see his credential and failed to recognize the three-time series champion.

The ’80 victory was worth $21,000 to the winner and made Yarborough the second driver to top $3 million in career earnings, joining Richard Petty.

The Cup Series competed on 17 tracks at that time. The Texas victory gave Yarborough, driver of the No. 11 Chevrolet for Junior Johnson, wins on 16 of the 17; he lacked only a victory at Ontario (Calif.) Motor Speedway.

The race was the seventh of eight premier series races held at TWS and the only one completed without a caution period.

The race was the first for points leader Dale Earnhardt without crew chief Jake Elder, who had resigned from the Osterlund Racing team May 28. Elder left the team due to disagreements with team manager Roland Wlodyka and Osterlund, the car owner. Wlodyka was named interim crew chief following Elder’s departure. Earnhardt finished ninth.

Quick results for Bonnett, Wood Brothers

Sunday, May 20, 1979 – It took Neil Bonnett only three races with the Wood Brothers to show that their belief in his talent wasn’t misplaced as Bonnett put the famed No. 21 Mercury in victory lane when he won the Mason-Dixon 500 at Dover International Speedway. Bonnett beat Cale Yarborough for his third career win in the series, thanks to a late caution that erased Yarborough’s 10-second lead.

Bonnett replaced three-time series champ David Pearson in the No. 21; Pearson and the team had split following a pit road miscue at Darlington.

Bonnett split with team owner Jim Stacy just three races into the ’79 season and seemed destined for a career in the local bullrings of the southeast. He said after the Dover win that he was “outside mounting tires” on his Late Model car when the Wood Brothers called to see if he was interested in driving for the team.

Yarborough did not pit under the final caution, brought out when J.D. McDuffie was hit by Ricky Rudd, who had blown a tire. Bonnett did pit, and the fresh tires and quick pit work by the Woods proved to be the difference.

Yarborough had Bonnett a lap down earlier but ran out of gas and had to pit, thus allowing Bonnett to get back on the lead lap.

Darrell Waltrip suffered an engine failure, but his DiGard team reportedly replaced the piece in 18 minutes to get their driver back out on the track.

A Pearson victory and a controversy

Sunday, April 29, 1973 – The Virginia 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway was your typical exciting short-track race, ending with David Pearson in victory lane following a lengthy late-race duel with Cale Yarborough. The pair battled for the top spot for more than 50 laps before Yarborough spun his No. 11 Chevrolet, leaving Pearson to sail away in his No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford. But it was a caution on lap 374 of the 500-lap race that left Yarborough and team manager Junior Johnson feeling robbed.

NASCAR officials threw the caution flag to allow an ambulance to exit the track and transport a heart attack victim to a local hospital. Pearson, two laps down earlier in the race, got back on the lead lap when the yellow appeared and after Yarborough had pitted under green moments earlier. Johnson said teams weren’t told the yellow was going to come out and the move “cost us that race.”

The victory was Pearson’s first at Martinsville, one of 11 victories in only 16 starts that season for the Spartanburg, S.C. native.

Yarborough, who led 314 laps, managed to finish second in spite of his late-race spin. Bobby Isaac, Buddy Baker and Cecil Gordon completed the top five.