1979 Southeastern 500 (partially found footage of NASCAR Winston Cup Series race; 1979)

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1979southeastern5001.jpg

Dale Earnhardt crosses the line to take his first of 76 NASCAR Cup Series wins.

Status: Partially Found

The 1979 Southeastern 500 was the 7th race of the 1979 NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Occurring on 1st April 1979 at Bristol International Speedway, the race marked a historic moment in NASCAR as Dale Earnhardt won his first race in the Series.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1979 Southeastern 500 was the 37th instance of a NASCAR Cup Series race being held at the Bristol International Speedway.[1] Occurring since 1961, it is a mainstay on the NASCAR schedule under the new name of Food City Dirt Race.[2] This would be one of two races held at Bristol International Speedway that season, with the 1979 Volunteer 500 being won by Darrell Waltrip on 25th August 1979.[3][4]

Prior to the race, Bobby Allison led the Cup Series by nine points.[5] Qualifying for the 500 occurred, with Buddy Baker winning the pole position with a qualifying record speed of 111.668 mph in his Oldsmobile.[6] He qualified ahead of Chevrolet drivers Waltrip and Donnie Allison in second and third respectively, with Waltrip being impressed with Baker's qualifying performance.[5] Dale Earnhardt, in his 16th Winston Cup Series start,[7] would qualify ninth for the race.[8]

The Race[edit | edit source]

Baker was confident this was going to be his best chance of winning at Bristol,[5] and so capitalised on winning the pole position by leading the first 138 laps of the 500-lap event. On lap 139, Earnhardt briefly passed him for the lead, before the first position quickly changed hands to Ford's Bobby Allison, then to Cale Yarborough in an Oldsmobile, and then to Waltrip. On lap 211, Baker retired following an accident with Yarborough on lap 210, who also ultimately retired from the race a few laps later.[6] These would contribute to the six cautions for the race, lasting 44 laps.[8]

By lap 255, the race was generally between Earnhardt and Waltrip. On lap 460, Earnhardt almost crashed out after scrapping one of the track's walls, causing damage to his car's right side.[5] Nevertheless, he succeeded in passing Waltrip for the lead on lap 474, about 13 miles before the finish,[9] and held on to win.[8] Earnhardt earned $19,800 in prize money, his biggest earnings at that point in his NASCAR career, while also becoming the first rookie winner in the Cup Series since 1974.[9][6][8] Allison overtook Waltrip to finish second, 2.7 seconds behind Earnhardt, with Waltrip holding on to finish third, with the trio being the only ones on the lead lap.[6][8]

In victory lane, Earnhardt praised his pit crew, as well as his recent crew chief Jake Elder for his win, stating "My crew got me in and out of the pits and there at the end it won me the race. The addition of crew chief Jake Elder has made this team a winner."[6] Earnhardt would later win the Rookie of the Year trophy for that year's Series, and his win at the event also caused one of Earnhardt's mechanics, Doug Richert, to quit smoking after promising he would do so the first time that Earnhardt would win a race. Richert would later become Earnhardt's crew chief from the 1980 Series.[10] While this would be Earnhardt's only victory of the 1979 Winston Cup Series,[3][10] the win would kickstart a highly successful career for The Intimidator, as he would later achieve a total of 76 victories and seven Cup championships.[10] Earnhardt also shares the most Cup championships accolade alongside Richard Petty and Jimmie Johnson.[11]

Availability[edit | edit source]

Despite the historic nature of the race for NASCAR, the 1979 Southeastern 500 was not actually televised in any form, with only 14 of the 33 races in the 1979 Cup Series being televised.[12] This has led to the race becoming coveted NASCAR media, with Earnhardt's son, Dale Earnhardt Jr., discussing in a March 2009 interview how he wishes that a videotape of the race could one day be accessible.[13]

However, footage of the race is publicly accessible, thanks to a Bristol Motor Speedway video detailing Earnhardt's first win, including showing Earnhardt passing the chequered flag and celebrating following the race's conclusion. As of the present day, these are the only clips available of the race. However, the clips' existence does bring the possibility that additional clips of the race may still be held within the Bristol Motor Speedway archives, perhaps containing footage unrelated to Earnhardt's win. Earnhardt Jr. speculates that a videotape might be available somewhere, which contains more than the clips of his father coming off the last corner.[13]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Video[edit | edit source]

Bristol Motor Speedway providing clips of the race.


Images[edit | edit source]

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Racing-Reference listing NASCAR Cup Series races held at the Bristol International Speedway. Retrieved 2nd Jan '22
  2. Bristol Motor Speedway detailing its latest NASCAR race. Retrieved 2nd Jan '22
  3. 3.0 3.1 Racing-Reference detailing the 1979 NASCAR Winston Cup Series schedule. Retrieved 2nd Jan '22
  4. Racing-Reference detailing the results of the 1979 Volunteer 500. Retrieved 2nd Jan '22
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Racing-Reference detailing stories regarding the 1979 Southeastern 500. Retrieved 2nd Jan '22
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Speed Sport detailing Earnhardt's first win, as well as containing qualifying and race details. Retrieved 2nd Jan '22
  7. Dale Earnhardt Sr.: NASCAR Legend briefly detailing his first win. Retrieved 2nd Jan '22
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Racing-Reference detailing the start order and race results. Retrieved 2nd Jan '22
  9. 9.0 9.1 The New York Times reporting on the race results Retrieved 2nd Jan '22
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Autoweek detailing the story of Earnhardt's first win, where he would later become one of the most successful NASCAR drivers of all-time. Retrieved 2nd Jan '22
  11. Jeff Gordon noting Earnhardt sharing the most Cup championships with Petty and Johnson. Retrieved 2nd Jan '22
  12. NASCAR on TV listing all the televised 1979 Winston Cup Series races, with the 1979 Southeastern 500 ultimately not being one of them. Retrieved 2nd Jan '22
  13. 13.0 13.1 ESPN where Earnhardt Jr. discussed his wish for a videotape of the 1979 Southeastern 500 to become publicly accessible. Retrieved 2nd Jan '22