1976 Dixie 500 (lost CBS footage of NASCAR Winston Cup Series race; 1976)

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1976dixie5001.jpg

Dale Earnhardt's Chevrolet flipping over inside the third turn.

Status: Lost

The 1976 Dixie 500 was the 29th race of the 1976 NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Occurring on 7th November at the Atlanta International Raceway, the race would be won by Dave Marcis, and allowed Cale Yarborough to virtually win his first of three consecutive titles. The race is most famous for featuring a major crash involving Dale Earnhardt, whose Chevrolet flipped over three times after being hit by another car.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1976 Dixie 500 was the penultimate race of that year's Winston Cup Series. Heading into the event, Cale Yarborough led the championship with 4,380 points, 97 ahead of closest rival Richard Petty, who was on 4,283.[1] Qualifying for the race resulted in Buddy Baker beating Dave Marcis to the pole position. Petty qualified fourth, while Yarborough was down in seventh.[2] A young Dale Earnhardt, in only his third Winston Cup start and his first in Atlanta, initially struggled in the first qualifying round, but after having a chat with Petty concerning tips about grooves and best turn approaches, ended up leading the second round qualifiers. He ultimately started the race in 16th.[3]

The Dale Earnhardt Archive stated that the race itself prior to Earnhardt's crash was fairly uneventful. Petty ultimately ended up losing ground to Yarborough in the championship, as he retired after 157 laps following his car experiencing oil pressure issues. The first 64 laps saw Marcis defending against David Pearson, Yarborough, and Donnie Allison, with lead changes occurring at four different areas of the oval according to Stock Car Racing Magazine writer Richard Benyo. By lap 301, the race was between Marcis and Pearson, with Pearson overtaking his opponent on this lap, only for Marcis to retake the lead on the 314th lap. A two-lap sprint, caused by a late yellow flag period, saw Marcis defend the lead from Pearson to claim the win and earn $20,165 from a $132,625 winnings pot, with Allison earning the final podium spot.[4] Yarborough finished in fourth, extending his lead in the championship to 183 points, which was enough to claim the title provided he simply started the final race of the Series,[5][6] which he ultimately did.

Dale Earnhardt crash[edit | edit source]

During the early stages of the race, Dick Brooks broke one of his Ford's wheel spindles, which resulted in him being several laps down from the leaders by the time the race had 50 laps to complete. Brooks communicated to Junie Donlavey, the Ford's owner, exclaiming "Man, this thing feels weird!”. Not long after this radio communication, the car suddenly turned towards and crashed into the turn 3 wall, which bounced back in the path of fellow racers. Among them was Earnhardt, who was on course to possibly earn a top ten finish. He was unable to avoid the stricken Ford and ended up being clipped by it. This caused his Chevrolet, owned by Johnny Ray, to barrel roll three times and catch fire on the last turn, before ending up resting on its wheels on the front straightaway. Despite the violent nature of the crash, Earnhardt ultimately only suffered a cut to one of his hands. Nevertheless, Earnhardt stated in a later interview that while he was feeling OK when Terry Bivins pulled him out of the crash, he certainly felt pain the day later, stating that he "felt like the winning horse of the Kentucky Derby had trampled me.”[7]

When speaking to the media post-race, Earnhardt expressed regret that he wrecked Ray's car, claiming that he should have taken the high route of the turn instead of maintaining his course. Ray was understanding however, and was concerned more about Earnhardt following the accident, which Ray had first-hand experience of as he had to retire from racing following a similar accident in the 1976 Daytona 500. Earnhardt would be credited as finishing 19th, and earned $1,360. He and Robert Gee helped fix the car, in part by using the prize money for this race, and it would ultimately be ready for the 1977 Daytona 500, driven by Johnny Rutherford.

Availability[edit | edit source]

Despite the 1976 Dixie 500 being known for the crash and for virtually deciding the 1976 NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion, no footage is known to be publicly available. According to Racing-Reference and nascarman History, footage of the race was shown on CBS, albeit on tape-delay as part of CBS Sports Spectacular a week after the race, but none of the CBS broadcast has resurfaced.[8][9] Currently, the only available concerning the race include a few photographs mainly of Earnhardt's crash, and a radio broadcast focused on the accident.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Videos[edit | edit source]

Radio broadcast concerning Dale Earnhardt's crash and a post-race interview.
YouTube video providing driver recollections and a few photos of Dale Earnhardt's crash.


Images[edit | edit source]

See Also[edit | edit source]

External Link[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]