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

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1976winston5001.png

Program for the race.

Status: Lost

The 1976 Winston 500 was the 10th race of the 1976 NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Occurring on 2nd May at the Alabama International Motor Speedway, the race would ultimately be won by Buddy Baker in a Ford, achieving his third consecutive Cup Series victory at the superspeedway and his only win for the 1976 season. He also set the fastest 500 mile victory in NASCAR at the time.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1976 Winston 500 was the 7th running of the event, with the annual race typically lasting around 500 miles in length.[1] It was one of two 1976 Winston Cup Series races conducted at Alabama International Motor Speedway, the other being the Talladega 500,[2] which in 1976 occurred on 8th August and was won by Dodge's Dave Marcis.[3] The race also has ties to the modern GEICO 500, having dropped the Winston title from 2001.[4]

Prior to the race, qualifying commenced with Marcis winning the pole position with a speed of 189.197 mph.[1] Directly behind him was fellow Dodge driver Richard Petty, with Chevrolet's Donnie Allison lining up third.[1] Buddy Baker qualified only 12th out of 40 competitors,[1] but was nevertheless motivated to win his third consecutive Cup Series race at Alabama, as well as his first of the season.[5][6][7][2] Actor Jackie Cooper was the grand marshal for the race.[7]

The Race[edit | edit source]

With the starting order decided, the 1976 Winston 500 commenced on 2nd May.[1] Marcis held the lead for the first 12 laps, before swapping it with a fast-charging Baker for a few laps.[1] The battle for the lead became an open competition, as James Hylton, David Sisco, Cecil Gordon, Cale Yarborough, and Bobby Allison all briefly led, but with none being able to lead more than five consecutive laps.[1] Baker became to first to lead more than ten consecutive laps, holding onto the first position from lap 36 to 52.[1]

From there, a pattern emerged, where contenders like the Chevrolets of Hylton and Yarborough would briefly take the first position, only for Baker to quickly gain it back and lead for over 20-30 laps.[1] By lap 155, Baker had two main challengers, with Richard Petty in a Dodge overtaking him for the first position, only for The King to drop it to Yarborough on lap 162.[1] Eventually, Baker moved back into first with the final lead change occurring on lap 165.[1] For the remaining 24 laps, Baker extended his lead over Yarborough to 35 seconds to win the race and claim $21,985 in prize money.[5][6][1] His win would make history, as his average 169.887 mph was the fastest in NASCAR history at the time, beating out the previous record of 167.247 mph and winning within three hours of the start time.[5] He would also become the first driver to win three consecutive times at Winston Cup Series races at Alabama, with this being his only victory for 1976.[5][6][7][2] Ironically, Yarborough had set the previous NASCAR speed record, ultimately finishing second in this race, with Allison's Mercury edging out Petty for third.[5][1]

Availability[edit | edit source]

According to NASCAR on TV, 30 minutes of highlights were televised by CBS on 8th May 1976 as part of its CBS Sports Spectacular, billing it as the "Alabama 500".[8] This would be televised alongside the 1976 Spanish Grand Prix and Women's World Cup Surfing.[8] However, the broadcast has yet to resurface, and no footage of the race is currently publicly available. According to Dale Earnhardt Jr., a 20 minute documentary called "World's Fastest Race" detailed Baker's record win at the event,[9] although this too currently remains missing. Photos and newspaper clippings of the event are however publicly viewable.[7]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Images[edit | edit source]

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]