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

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Program for the race.

Status: Lost

The 1976 Atlanta 500 was the 6th race of the 1976 NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Occurring on 21st March at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, the race would be highly competitive and was ultimately won by David Pearson in a Mercury as other contenders suffered reliability issues.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1976 Atlanta 500 was the 17th running of the event, with the race traditionally being around 500 miles in length.[1] It was one of two 1976 Winston Cup Series races conducted at Atlanta Motor Speedway,[2] the other being the Dixie 500,[1] which in 1976 occurred on 7th November and was won by Dave Marcis in a Dodge.[3] The Atlanta 500 also has ties to the modern Quaker State 400, which resumed the event at a 400 mile length in 2021 after not being held from 2011-2020.[4][5]

Prior to the race, qualifying commenced with Dave Marcis winning the pole position with a speed of 160.709 mph.[6] Directly behind him was Pearson, with Dodge driver Richard Petty qualifying third.[6] The King was satisfied with his qualifying position, with his team also allowing Jackie Stewart, the three-time Formula One World Champion and ABC-TV race analyst, to have a go in Petty's car prior to the race.[7][8] With Petty himself providing instructions via radio, Stewart managed to reach a top speed of 139 mph, and returned the car in one piece, much to The King's relief.[8] Stewart later expressed regret for not competing in stock cars prior to his retirement from motorsport, stating it was a privilege to drive the Dodge and emphasising the differences between it and a grand prix car, including its far heavier steering.[8] Another discussion point was NASCAR's decision to enforce the restriction of the flow of air and gasoline to each vehicles' carburettor, which caused most to lose around 50 horsepower.[9] This was to dismay of some drivers, including Pearson.[9]

The Race[edit | edit source]

With the starting order decided, the 1976 Atlanta 500 occurred on 21st March.[6] Pearson shot into the lead on the first lap, but holding onto it proved difficult, with numerous lap leader changes and ten different leaders throughout the early stages.[7][6] However, contenders began to drop from the field, with four ending their sessions because of engine failures.[7] Among them included Marcis on lap 107, Chevrolet driver James Hylton on lap 155, Mercury driver Bobby Allison on lap 188, and Petty on lap 194.[7][9][6] Cale Yarborough in a Chevrolet and Buddy Baker in a Dodge were the only two racers to lead at least ten consecutive laps.[7] However, the latter retired on lap 238 due to a failed engine,[6] while Yarborough, deemed the quickest on track according to The New York Times, suffered a broken distributor rotor midway through the race.[10] He was able to continue, albeit being four laps down.[10][9]

As contenders dropped out, the race's final third centred between Pearson and the Chevrolet of Benny Parsons.[7] Pearson managed to recover after experiencing tyre troubles that caused him to be a lap down earlier in the race.[10] The race would ultimately be decided during the pit stops, when Parsons pitted with 100 miles to go and only changed two tyres.[10] In contrast, Pearson had all four tyres changed with 50 miles to go.[10] This enabled him to blast past Parsons on lap 298, and pulled away for the remaining laps to claim victory and between $16,000-$16,750 in prize money.[10][6][7] Parsons was 1.8 seconds behind in second,[10] with Yarborough having achieved a good recovery to finish a lap down in third.[6][10] Post-race, Pearson accepted Yarborough had the fastest car, and noted that the pit stop proved critical due to having superior handling as opposed to Parsons.[9] He also noted that another issue emerged when he experienced vibrations while leading on lap 265, although this would cease following the pit stops.[9]

Availability[edit | edit source]

According to NASCAR on TV, ABC televised the final 90 minutes of the race as part of its ABC Championship Auto Racing.[11] Bench-Racing also states that a condensed version was shown on ABC's Wide World of Sports, which included Stewart's run in the Dodge.[7] However, neither broadcast has since resurfaced, and no footage of the race is currently publicly available. Racing-Reference notes that home video footage was uploaded to YouTube by 8mmhistory on 17th March 2018.[12] However, the video has since been made private.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Images[edit | edit source]

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]