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

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Program for the race.

Status: Lost

The 1976 Rebel 500 was the 8th race of the 1976 NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Occurring on 11th April at the Darlington Raceway, the race would ultimately be won by polesitter David Pearson in a Mercury, following a duel with Ford's Buddy Baker. The event was also notable for its crashes, including an accident that nearly claimed the life of Chevrolet driver Jerry Sisco.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1976 Rebel 500 was the 20th running of the event, with the annual race typically lasting around 500 miles in length since 1973.[1] Its name is a reference to the race typically being held near Confederate Memorial Day,[2] with Confederate flags often being featured on race programs and within the stands.[3] It was one of two 1976 Winston Cup Series races conducted at Darlington Raceway, the other being the Southern 500,[4] which in 1976 occurred on 6th September and was won by David Pearson.[5] After the two Darlington races were merged into one 400 mile race for 2005,[6] the Rebel 400's legacy would continue in 2020 under the current name of the Goodyear 400.[7]

Prior to the race, qualifying commenced with Pearson winning the pole position with a speed of 154.171 mph.[8][9][1] Directly behind him was fellow Mercury driver Bobby Allison, with Ford's Dick Brooks lining up third.[1][9] Pearson's pole position was considered unsurprising, as this was his third consecutive pole at Darlington, as well as his fourth in the previous five Rebel events.[9]

The Race[edit | edit source]

With the starting order decided, the 1976 Rebel 500 commenced on 11th April.[1] Pearson held the lead until lap 2, when Allison briefly led, only for Pearson to again control things for the next 13 laps.[1][9] However, the early stages saw much competition for the lead, with 10 different drivers, including Baker, Dodge's Richard Petty, and Chevrolet's Darrell Waltrip, contributing towards 32 leader changes throughout the race.[1][9] Bench-Racing noted that the extent of lead changes is comparable to larger tracks like Daytona and Talladega.[9]

Starting from 24, several incidents occurred,[10][8] including Darrell Bryant crashing his Chevrolet after 23 laps, and Brooks retiring following a crash after 30.[8][1] On lap 82, James Hylton's Chevrolet was spun and would clip Baker's Ford, causing the car to swap ends.[8][9] Darrell Waltrip's Chevrolet then smashed directly into Hylton, resulting in his vehicle somewhat being launched into the air.[8][9] Both were eliminated,[1] with Hylton requiring x-ray examinations on his legs which ultimately showed no injuries.[8] Allison was also involved in the incident, with his vehicle experiencing a damaged oil cooler that took him out of lead contention.[8][9] Baker was able to continue and remain competitive, albeit having to contend with a damaged grill that would impact aerodynamics.[9][8] This would later be partially repaired by his team.[8]

Another serious crash occurred on lap 170,[1] when Jerry Sisco crashed into the outside wall along the front straightaway, before smashing into the inside concrete barrier.[9][8] The crashes caused the Chevrolet to suffer from a ruptured fuel tank, which ignited.[9][10][8] Sisco was motionless in the car, and most likely would have perished in the crash were it not for the actions Dale Inman and Barry Dodson, two of Petty's pit crew members, who pulled him free from the wrecked car.[10][8][9] Sisco was dazed, but ultimately recovered after a check-up at the trackside hospital.[8][9]

Despite the damage inflicted following the Hylton collision, Baker was still a contender for the win, leading 205 laps overall.[1][9][8] However, despite leading the most laps, Baker faced intense competition from Pearson, who managed to lead a few laps at a time during the end stages.[8][10][9][1] Pearson managed to close the gap after initially losing a lap following a cut right front tyre on lap 166.[8][10] Ultimately, Pearson capitalised following the final caution caused by a spin by Chevrolet's Benny Parsons with 20 laps remaining.[8][1][9] Three laps later, he performed the final lead change, holding it for the remaining laps to claim victory and $17,750 in prize money.[8][9][1] Baker finished two to five car lengths behind to achieve second place, with Parsons taking third despite his earlier spin, two laps down from the leaders.[10][8][1][9] Post-race, Pearson believed the caution was crucial for victory, The Silver Fox stating "I guess that caution flag did it for me. I felt I might could have caught up with Buddy but I doubt if I could have passed him. Time would have run out. It's open thing to pull up on a feller, it's another to get around him, 'especially if he doesn't want you to."[8] This was Pearson's sixth Darlington win, and his fourth within the previous five Rebel races.[9][8]

Availability[edit | edit source]

According to NASCAR on TV, 45 minutes of highlights were televised by ABC on 10th April 1976 as part of its Wide World of Sports, alongside footage of bodybuilding.[11] However, the broadcast has yet to resurface, and no footage of the race is currently publicly available. Racing-Reference notes that home video footage was once uploaded to YouTube by 8mmhistory on 17th March 2018.[12] However, this video has since been made private. Nevertheless, photos and newspaper clippings of the event are publicly viewable.[9]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Images[edit | edit source]

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 Racing-Reference detailing qualifying and race results for the event. Retrieved 3 Apr '22
  2. Yahoo! News noting the race was typically held near Confederate Memorial Day. Retrieved 3 Apr '22
  3. SB Nation detailing the extent of Confederate flags and celebrations during the Rebel races. Retrieved 3 Apr '22
  4. Racing-Reference detailing the 1976 NASCAR Winston Cup Series calendar. Retrieved 3 Apr '22
  5. Racing-Reference detailing the results of the 1976 Southern 500. Retrieved 3 Apr '22
  6. Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet detailing the history of Darlington Raceway and how both races were merged into one from 2005. Retrieved 3 Apr '22
  7. Jayski noting the race carries on as the Goodyear 400. Retrieved 3 Apr '22
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 8.11 8.12 8.13 8.14 8.15 8.16 8.17 8.18 8.19 8.20 Charlotte Observer reporting on Pearson winning the race, and the Hylton and Sisco crashes (report found on Bench-Racing). Retrieved 3 Apr '22
  9. 9.00 9.01 9.02 9.03 9.04 9.05 9.06 9.07 9.08 9.09 9.10 9.11 9.12 9.13 9.14 9.15 9.16 9.17 9.18 9.19 9.20 Bench-Racing detailing qualifying, the race and the crashes. Retrieved 3 Apr '22
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 The New York Times reporting on Pearson winning the race and Sisco's crash. Retrieved 3 Apr '22
  11. NASCAR on TV detailing the ABC broadcast of the race. Retrieved 3 Apr '22
  12. Racing-Reference noting an 8mmhistory home video that has since been made private. Retrieved 3 Apr '22