1970 Wilkes 400 (lost footage of NASCAR Grand National Series race; 1970)

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Program for the race.

Status: Lost

The 1970 Wilkes 400 was the 43rd race of the 1970 NASCAR Grand National Series. Occurring on 4th October at the North Wilkesboro Speedway, the race would ultimately be won by pole sitter Bobby Isaac in a 1970 Dodge, after a race-long duel with 1970 Plymouth driver Richard Petty.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1970 Wilkes 400 was the 10th running of the event, with the annual race typically lasting 250 miles in length.[1] It was one of two 1970 Grand National Series races conducted at North Wilkesboro Speedway, the other being the Gwyn Staley 400,[2] which in 1970 occurred on 18th April and was won by Richard Petty.[3] The race itself would continue until 1996 as the Tyson Holly Farms 400,[4] before the track was abandoned in the same year.[5] Beforehand, the North Wilkesboro Speedway was praised by some drivers and fans for continually providing exciting racing.[6]

Prior to the race, qualifying commenced with Bobby Isaac winning the pole position with a speed of 105.406 mph.[1][6] He was therefore seeking to add to his ten wins he achieved during the season, and extend his championship lead.[6] Directly behind him was 1970 Ford driver Donnie Allison, with Petty lining up third.[1][6] On the same day as the race, tragedy occurred when Curtis Turner, who was looking to make a comeback in the 1970 National 500, was killed in a plane crash, aged 46.[6]

The Race[edit | edit source]

With the starting order decided, the 1970 Wilkes 400 commenced on 4th October.[1] Isaac held onto the lead for the first four laps, before being overtaken on Allison on lap 5.[1][6] However, Isaac moved back into the first position on lap 10, and was able to maintain his position for 122 consecutive laps.[1][6] Nevertheless, he faced competition from Petty, who took the lead on lap 132 and defended it until Isaac again moved back into the first position on lap 178.[1][6] Aside from Allison's brief stint early on, the only lap leaders would exclusively be Isaac and Petty for the full race duration.[6][1]

The battle for the lead intensified from lap 181 onwards, where both vehicles were separated by only a few car lengths.[6] On lap 388, Isaac made a pit stop, only to lose a lap to Petty after a jack ended up sinking into the pitlane's soft asphalt.[6] He remained determined to win however, and was able to quickly unlap himself after taking advantage of the third caution period that occurred with 50 laps to go.[7][6] With 25 laps remaining, Bob Strickler's 1970 Chevrolet spun, resulting in the final caution.[6] Isaac used this to his advantage, pitting for new soft compound tyres while Petty remained on track.[6][7] This enabled him to fully close on The King, eventually overtaking him with 12 laps remaining.[7][6] Petty continually attempted to move back into the lead, but Isaac's pace proved to be consistent through the turns, enabling Isaac to claim victory six car lengths ahead of Petty, and $5,825 in prize money.[8][7][6][1] Allison finished third, a lap down from the leaders.[1][6][7] This was Isaac's first win at North Wilkesboro.[7]

Availability[edit | edit source]

According to NASCAR on TV, 45 minutes of highlights were televised by ABC on 10th October 1970 as part of its Wide World of Sports, alongside the International Figure Skating Championships.[9] However, this broadcast has yet to resurface, and as of the present day no footage of the race is publicly available. Nevertheless, some photos and newspaper clippings help to document the event.[7][6]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Image[edit | edit source]

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]