1974 National 500 (lost footage of NASCAR Winston Cup Series race; 1974)

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Program for the race.

Status: Lost

The 1974 National 500 was the 28th race of the 1974 NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Occurring on 6th October at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, the race would ultimately be won by pole sitter David Pearson in a 1973 Mercury, with 1974 Dodge driver Richard Petty securing the championship in this round. The event is also notable for a major crash on lap 2 that almost claimed the life of country and western singer Marty Robbins.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1974 National 500 was the 15th running of the event, with the annual race typically lasting 500 miles in length.[1] It was one of two 1974 Winston Cup Series races conducted at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the other being the World 600,[2] which in 1974 occurred on 26th May and was won by David Pearson.[3] The race also has ties to the modern Bank of America Roval 400, having dropped the National name from 1983 onwards and being reduced to 400 miles from 2018.[4][5]

Prior to the race, qualifying commenced with Pearson winning the pole position with a then-record speed of 157.498 mph.[6][1] It was considered unsurprising that Pearson won the pole position, as he would secure 11 consecutive poles at Charlotte starting from the 1973 National 500.[7] Directly behind him was Richard Petty, who achieved a speed of 157.545 mph, with 1973 Ford driver Buddy Baker lining up third.[8][1][7] Also in attendance was Marty Robbins, a famous country and western singer who occasionally competed in Cup Series races since 1966. He would be making his debut at Charlotte at this event with a 1974 Dodge, qualifying last out of the 42 runners who successfully qualified for the race.[1]

The Race[edit | edit source]

With the starting order decided, the 1974 National 500 commenced on 6th October.[1] Pearson maintained the lead even following a major accident involving Robbins on lap 2.[9][1][7] Pearson led until lap 13, when Darrell Waltrip in a 1972 Chevrolet passed him.[1] Throughout the race, it was an open competition for the first position, with Pearson, Waltrip, Petty, and 1974 Chevrolet drivers Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough leading a considerable number of laps, result in 47 lead changes.[7][1] Pearson however would drop down the field following a flat tyre that led to handling issues.[9][7]

By lap 271, Donnie Allison led, having fended off further changes from Waltrip, Petty, and his brother Bobby, who was driving a 1974 Matador at the event.[1] However, Pearson was fast-charging through the field, and pulled off what ultimately was the final lead change on lap 281.[9][1][7] Pearson would primarily face competition from Petty, who started his charge from lap 317.[9][7] Ultimately, Pearson defended his position, winning by three car lengths from Petty and earning $22,575 in prize money.[9][1][7] Petty's second place was enough for him to claim a then-record fifth Cup Series championship, although his winless streak at Charlotte continued, having failed to win at 27 races at the speedway and finishing second five times.[9][7][1] Waltrip would finish third.[1][7][9]

Post-race, Pearson admitted that he thought his chances of winning the race were gone the moment his car suffered a flat tyre, losing two laps in the process.[9] He claimed some ingenuity by his team, including changing a wedge underneath the car's hood to improve handling, combined with his raw pace, helped him achieve victory.[9]

Marty Robbins' Crash[edit | edit source]

On lap 2, the 1972 Chevrolet of Jerry Schild spun while exiting turn 4.[10][7] While he was able to carry on having not crashed, the spin did result in the area being covered with dust.[10][7] As the cars behind passed through the dust cloud, a multicar accident involving Baker, Jim Vandiver, Joe Frasson, Soapy Castles, Dick Brooks, and Richard Childress occurred, taking all of them out of the race.[10][7][9][1] Robbins was immediately behind this group, and had no time to avoid crashing into either a vehicle or into a wall.[10][9][7] To avoid crashing into Childress' 1973 Chevrolet on the driver's side door, Robbins immediately turned right and smashed his Dodge into the wall at 160 mph.[10][7][9]

Robbins suffered injuries, including broken bones, facial cuts, and a blackened right eye.[10][7][9] Nevertheless, he recovered and carried on racing, including revisiting Charlotte for the 1980 National 500.[11] He explained his decision, stating "By the time I got to all those cars I knew there was no way for me to get through without hitting one or more. So I just turned it into the wall."[10][9] Robbins was credited as having saved Childress from a likely fatal accident.[12] On the flipside, Cotton Owens claimed that Robbins was lucky to be alive, as the Dodge jumped five feet in the air and backed across the track, where Robbins ultimately was not hit by any other drivers.[10]

Availability[edit | edit source]

According to NASCAR on TV, 45 minutes of highlights were televised by ABC on 19th October 1974 as part of its Wide World of Sports, alongside the National Wrist-Wrestling Championship.[13] However, the broadcast has yet to publicly resurface, and no footage of the race is currently available. Nevertheless, photos of the race, including those provided by J. Murrey Atkins Library.[14]

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 18 Mar '22
  2. Racing-Reference detailing the 1974 NASCAR Winston Cup Series calendar. Retrieved 18 Mar '22
  3. Racing-Reference detailing the results of the 1974 World 600. Retrieved 18 Mar '22
  4. The New York Times Stats detailing the history of the National 500. Retrieved 18 Mar '22
  5. Motorsport reporting on the Charlotte Roval being reduced to 400 miles. Retrieved 18 Mar '22
  6. Sumter Daily Item reporting on Pearson winning the pole position (article found on Bench-Racing). Retrieved 18 Mar '22
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 7.14 7.15 Bench-Racing detailing the qualifying, the race, and Robbins' accident. Retrieved 18 Mar '22
  8. The Monroe News Star reporting on Petty qualifying second for the race. (article found on Bench-Racing). Retrieved 18 Mar '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 The Robesonian reporting on Pearson winning the race and Robbins' crash (article found on Bench-Racing). Retrieved 18 Mar '22
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 10.7 The Spartanburg Herald-Journal reporting on Robbins' crash. (article found on Bench-Racing). Retrieved 18 Mar '22
  11. Racing-Reference noting Robbins competed at the 1980 National 500. Retrieved 18 Mar '22
  12. Saving Country Music detailing Robbins' crash and him being credited for saving Richard Childress. Retrieved 18 Mar '22
  13. NASCAR on TV detailing the ABC broadcast of the race. Retrieved 18 Mar '22
  14. J. Murrey Atkins Library providing many photos of the race. Retrieved 18 Mar '22