1976 World 600 (lost footage of NASCAR Winston Cup Series race; 1976)

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Program for the race.

Status: Lost

The 1976 World 600 was the 13th race of the 1976 NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Occurring on 30th May at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, the race would ultimately be won by pole sitter David Pearson in a Mercury, following a duel with Richard Petty's Dodge. The race also marked the Cup Series debut of Janet Guthrie, who would become the first woman to compete at a major NASCAR superspeedway event.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1976 World 600 was the 17th running of the event, with the race notable for being the longest in the NASCAR schedule at 600 miles.[1][2] It was one of two 1976 Winston Cup Series races conducted at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the other being the National 500,[3] which in 1976 occurred on 10th October and was won by Donnie Allison in a Chevrolet.[4] The race also has ties to the modern Coca Cola 600, having dropped the World 600 name from 1986 onwards.[5][1]

Prior to the race, qualifying commenced with David Pearson winning the pole position with a speed of 159.132 mph.[2] This would be his sixth consecutive pole position for that Series, eventually achieving eleven.[6] Directly behind him was Richard Petty,[2] who was seeking to replicate his wins at the World 600 and National 500 the previous year.[6] In third was Chevrolet's Cale Yarborough.[2] Dale Earnhardt made his second Cup Series appearance, having competed at the previous year's event.[6] He would start 25th out of 40 competitors in a Chevrolet.[2]

Elsewhere, media coverage was centring on Janet Guthrie, who had qualified 27th,[2][6] becoming the first woman to qualify for a NASCAR superspeedway event and the 11th woman to compete in a major NASCAR race.[7][6] Originally, this piece of NASCAR history almost never happened, as Guthrie was busy attempting to qualify for the Indianapolis 500.[8] Ultimately, she was unsuccessful, mainly due to her car being uncompetitive.[8] Charlotte Motor Speedway's Chairman O. Bruton Smith however felt that her presence at the World 600 would be greatly valued, including for boosting ticket sales, TV ratings and overall publicity[8]. He, alongside general manager H.A. Wheeler, convinced Lynda Ferreri, a First Union Bank executive and vice president of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, to buy a 1976 Chevrolet Chevelle Laguna and have Guthrie compete in it.[8] Ultimately, a deal was brokered, making NASCAR history in the process.[8]

The Race[edit | edit source]

With the starting order decided, the 1976 World 600 commenced on 30th May.[2] Yarborough shot into the lead on lap 1, but Pearson was able to recover it briefly on lap 2.[2] However, frequent leader changes between the two occurred throughout the race duration.[6] With the exception of a few laps led by Dave Marcis' Dodge, and Benny Parson's Chevrolet, the battle for the first position was primarily between Yarborough and Pearson, with Petty joining the fray later in the race.[6][2] On lap 39, Bobby Isaac, who was the 1970 Grand National champion and a 37-time race winner, retired after his Chevrolet's engine failed.[2] This would prove to be Isaac's final race in the Cup Series; a year later, he passed away following a heart attack while driving at Hickory Motor Speedway, aged 45.[7]

For the first 250 laps, Pearson and Yarborough continually changed places, with neither holding onto the lead for more than 40 laps.[2][6] But with 150 laps to go, Petty began to close in, overtaking Pearson to assume the first position on lap 252, and successfully defending it for another 49.[6][2][7] However, Pearson re-took the lead on lap 301, leading another 63 laps before the King took over for another five.[6][2] Pearson would reassume the lead again on lap 369 following the final pit stops.[9][6][2] Petty continually challenged for the lead for the final stretch, but on lap 398, Dick Brooks, James Hylton and Grant Adcox crashed, resulting in a caution.[6][9][2] Pearson was about six or seven seconds ahead of Petty prior to the accident, suggesting he would have likely held on even if the crash not occurred.[6][9] Instead, Pearson cruised to victory under caution to claim victory and $49,990 in prize money, $11,000 of which for his pole position.[9][6] Petty held on to finish second, with Yarborough taking third.[2][6][9]

Meanwhile, Earnhardt retired after 156 laps because of an engine failure.[8][2] Guthrie would finish 15th, 21 laps down from Pearson.[8][9] She ranked behind the Dodge of Buddy Arrington but ahead of D.K. Ulrich's Chevrolet.[2] Despite allegedly facing grumblings from many of the male racers,[7] Guthrie's performance received acclaim from the media and fans, with the Herald-Journal dubbing her "Queen Guthrie".[10] Post-race, she discussed that the concerns of not being able to endure the race duration proved unfounded, stating that while she did have a relief driver present,[9] the only sign of fatigue she experienced being when she misinterpreted a radio message as stating there were only five laps to go, rather than 50.[10] Pearson would be one of a few drivers who praised Guthrie, stating “She got in my way a couple of times, but I think she did a pretty good job for a rookie."[7][10] Guthrie would also earn the Curtis Turner Achievement Award for working her way from 27th to 15th.[9][10][8]

Availability[edit | edit source]

NASCAR on TV claimed that the race was possibly broadcast by CBS, although stating this was never confirmed.[11] In actuality, the race was televised by ABC, with Gutherie's appearance being a key reason for this.[8] However, the broadcast has yet to resurface, and no footage is currently publicly available as of the present day. Nevertheless, many photos of the race are viewable online.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Images[edit | edit source]

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]