1979 Dixie 500 (lost ABC footage of NASCAR Winston Cup Series race; existence unconfirmed; 1979)

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1979dixie5001.jpg

Program for the race.

Status: Existence Unconfirmed

The 1979 Dixie 500 was the penultimate race of the 1979 NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Occurring on 4th November at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, the race would ultimately be won by Neil Bonnett in a Mercury, after a close three-car finish between himself, the Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt, and Cale Yarborough's Oldsmobile.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1979 Dixie 500 was the 20th running of the event, with the race traditionally being around 500 miles in length.[1] It was one of two 1979 Winston Cup Series races conducted at Atlanta Motor Speedway,[2] the other being the Atlanta 500,[1] which in 1979 occurred on 18th March and was won by Buddy Baker in an Oldsmobile.[3] The Dixie 500 also has ties to the modern Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500; in fact, the Dixie name would be dropped after this race, being replaced by the Atlanta Journal 500.[4]

Prior to the race, qualifying commenced with Baker winning the pole position with a speed of 164.813 mph, this time while driving a Chevrolet.[5] Directly behind him was Cale Yarborough, with Ford driver Bobby Allison lining up fourth.[5] Championship contenders Darrell Waltrip and Richard Petty, both of whom were driving Chevrolets, qualified 14th and 13th respectively.[5] Initially, Baker's pole position was cast in doubt, because rain prevented five drivers, including Neil Bonnett, from setting a run.[6][7] Thus, Baker had to wait from Thursday to Sunday to confirm his pole position, with Bonnett, the most likely to take it away from Baker, qualifying 4th.[8][7] This allowed Baker to earn the distinction of achieving the most pole positions in the 1979 season.[8] Yarborough meanwhile was disappointed with qualifying 2nd, as he still had yet to achieve a pole position for the entirety of the season, putting his chances of competing in the Busch Clash at Daytona in doubt.[9][8][7]

The Race[edit | edit source]

With the starting order decided, the 1979 Dixie 500 occurred on 4th November.[5] Baker maintained his lead until lap 3, before being overtaken by Yarborough.[5] It was an open contest for the first position, with Earnhardt, Waltrip, and Chevrolet's Benny Parsons all leading at some point in the early stages.[5] Two contenders would however experience engine failures, with Baker retiring on lap 88, and Parsons ending his session on lap 193.[5] Bonnett had entered the scene by lap 215, but initially only led a few laps at a time before Yarborough or Earnhardt would take it away.[5]

By lap 270, the race was a three-way between Bonnett, Yarborough and Earnhardt.[5] The finish would prove especially close, with the trio swapping the lead four times within the last 20 laps.[10] Earnhardt would be leading at the start of the final three laps, but Bonnett achieved a critical overtake on lap 325 to move back into the first position.[10][5] Despite the efforts of Earnhardt and Yarborough, Bonnett was just about able to hold off the other contenders, beating Earnhardt to a line by a half-car length to claim victory and earn $20,550 in prize money.[11][10][5] Yarborough finished third just three lengths behind the winner.[10][5] In the championship, Waltrip finished fifth ahead of Petty in sixth, giving the former a 2-point advantage heading into the final race of the season.[5][10] Petty almost did not finish the race, as he had spun two-thirds of the way through.[7] The Daytona Beach Morning Journal noted his son Petty ironically spun at the same spot 10 laps earlier, placing the photos of both spinning together with the title "Like Father Like Son?".[12][7]

This would also be the first Atlanta win for a Wood Brothers since 1976.[13] Post-race, Bonnett expressed the difficulty of leading the race as the tyres increased in temperature.[11] The decision to hold back, let Earnhardt through and then plough past again with three laps to go contributed towards him winning the race.[11] Earnhardt meanwhile admitted that he gave it his best shot, but that "it wasn't quite enough".[11]

Availability[edit | edit source]

It is unknown whether this race was televised. According to NASCAR on TV, there have been reports indicating that ABC televised highlights of the race, most likely as part of its Wide World of Sports.[14] However, there is no confirmation on whether this broadcast officially occurred.[14] No other footage of the race has resurfaced as of the present day, but a few photos of the event are publicly accessible.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Images[edit | edit source]

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Racing Circuits documenting the Dixie 500 and the Atlanta 500. Retrieved 8 Mar '22
  2. Racing-Reference detailing the 1979 NASCAR Winston Cup Series calendar. Retrieved 8 Mar '22
  3. Racing-Reference detailing the results of the 1979 Atlanta 500. Retrieved 8 Mar '22
  4. The New York Times Stats detailing the history of the second Atlanta race beyond Dixie 500. Retrieved 8 Mar '22
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 Racing-Reference detailing qualifying and race results of the event. Retrieved 8 Mar '22
  6. Spartanburg Herald reporting on Baker's pole position being in doubt (report found on RacersReunion). Retrieved 8 Mar '22
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 RacersReunion detailing the qualifying and race events. Retrieved 8 Mar '22
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Spartanburg Herald reporting on Baker officially winning the pole position (report found on RacersReunion). Retrieved 8 Mar '22
  9. Spartanburg Herald reporting on Yarborough needing a pole position to qualify for the Busch Clash at Daytona (report found on RacersReunion). Retrieved 8 Mar '22
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 The New York Times reporting on Bonnett winning the race. Retrieved 8 Mar '22
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Spartanburg Herald reporting on Bonnett winning the race and post-race interviews (report found on RacersReunion). Retrieved 8 Mar '22
  12. Daytona Beach Morning Journal reporting on Richard and Kyle Petty spinning in the same area (report found on RacersReunion). Retrieved 8 Mar '22
  13. Spartanburg Herald reporting on Bonnett winning the race and giving the Wood Brothers their first Atlanta win since 1976 (report found on RacersReunion. Retrieved 8 Mar '22
  14. 14.0 14.1 NASCAR on TV detailing the possibility of an ABC broadcast of the race. Retrieved 8 Mar '22