Yarborough wins; Earnhardt injured

Monday, July 30, 1979 – Three-time NASCAR premier series champion Cale Yarborough won the rain-delayed Coca-Cola 500 under caution while rookie of the year points leader Dale Earnhardt was transported to a local hospital following a hard crash at the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway. Yarborough, driving the No. 11 Chevrolet fielded by owner Junior Johnson, beat Darrell Waltrip out of the pits during a final fuel stop and was leading when a final yellow appeared for a crash involving Nelson Oswald. Officials were unable to clear the track in time for a one-lap dash under green, giving Yarborough his third win of the season.

Earnhardt, driving the No. 2 Chevrolet of Rod Osterlund, blew a tire and struck the wall hard just two laps from the 100-lap mark. The former race leader was transported to a local hospital where he was diagnosed with a concussion, one broken collarbone and one cracked collarbone.

Two days after the crash, the Osterlund team announced veteran David Pearson would fill in as driver until Earnhardt was able to return. The injuries kept Earnhardt sidelined for the following four races. Pearson, winner of 103 career races, had split with Wood Brothers Racing earlier in the year.

Richard Petty, Buddy Baker, Benny Parsons and Ricky Rudd completed the top five in the race, which was run one day later than originally scheduled due to rain.

Waltrip finished seventh in a “borrowed” car that was practically rebuilt after he crashed his own entry during practice. Unable to make the necessary repairs to his car, Waltrip “bought” a ride in the No. 22 of Al Rudd.

Rookie Harry Gant finished 15th in the No. 47 Jack Beebe Race Hill Farm entry after winning his first premier series pole.

Reduced penalty for Earnhardt

Mon., March 3, 1986 – NASCAR officials reduced a penalty and fine levied against driver Dale Earnhardt for his actions in the final laps of the Feb. 23 Miller High Life 400 at Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway. The Richard Childress Racing driver had initially been placed on probation for one year under a $10,000 bond and fined $5,000 for contact with Darrell Waltrip. Following a meeting of the NASCAR appeals committee held at Charlotte Douglas Airport, Earnhardt’s penalty was reduced to a $3,000 fine.

At the time, Earnhardt’s $5,000 fine and $10,000 bond (required to pay before he could resume competition) was the harshest penalty levied against a driver since Curtis Turner and Tim Flock were banned from the sport in 1961.

Waltrip passed Earnhardt with three laps remaining but contact from Earnhardt sent both cars into the guardrail in Turn 3 before the lap was completed.

Kyle Petty slipped through the wreckage to score the win, his first in NASCAR’s premier series.