1972 Firecracker 400 (lost ABC footage of NASCAR Winston Cup Series race; 1972)

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Program for the race.

Status: Lost

The 1972 Firecracker 400 was the 17th race of the 1972 NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Occurring on 4th July at the Daytona International Speedway, the race would ultimately be won by David Pearson in a 1971 Mercury. The race is known for its duel between Pearson, Richard Petty in a 1972 Dodge, and Bobby Allison in a 1972 Chevrolet.


The 1972 Firecracker 400 was the 14th running of the event, with its name a reference to the fact it was held on the United States' Independence Day.[1] It was also the second 1972 NASCAR Winston Cup Series event to be held at Daytona International Speedway,[2] after the Daytona 500, which in 1972 occurred on 20th February and was won by A.J. Foyt.[3] The Firecracker 400 also has ties to the modern Coke Zero Sugar 400 race, having dropped the Firecracker name in 2019.[1] Heading into the race, it was reported that Don Shula, head coach of the Miami Dolphins, would be the grand marshal for the event.[4][5]

Prior to the race, qualifying commenced with Bobby Isaac winning the pole position in a 1972 Dodge with a speed of 186.277 mph, ahead of Pearson and fellow 1972 Dodge driver Buddy Baker.[6][7] The qualifying performance proved remarkable, considering Isaac was suffering from a broken rib he experienced in a golf carting accident prior to arriving at Daytona, with several of his team also nursing injuries.[4] Pearson joked that Isaac looked like "he needs an ambulance instead of a race car".[4] Nevertheless, Isaac aimed to not only replicate his victory the year prior, but also to eliminate a curse at the Firecracker 400 where whoever won the pole position at the race since 1959 ultimately did not win the event.[6][4] Pearson meanwhile was attempting to continue his strong comeback into stock car racing, having suffered poor 1970 and 1971 seasons.[8][4] Petty, who qualified 4th, was looking to win his first Firecracker 400, having won the Daytona 500 three times previously.[6]

The Race

With the starting order decided, the 1972 Firecracker 400 occurred on 4th July. Baker shot into the lead on lap 1, with himself and Pearson swapping for the lead in the first four laps. The race then became a five-way duel during its early stages, featuring Baker, Pearson, Allison, Petty, and Isaac, the latter retiring on lap 80 following engine failure and thus continuing the pole curse.[7][4] Baker's Dodge then suffered a tyre failure in the second turn on lap 107, with debris breaking the oil filter and causing an oil cooler failure that led to a retirement.[4] Thus, the race was between Pearson, Petty, and Allison, with Pearson being the only one to lead consecutive laps in the double digits.[7][4][8] However, Petty overtook him with 25-laps to go, and so too would Allison, leading to a duel between the Dodge and Chevrolet drivers. However, this allowed Pearson the opportunity to draft past both drivers on lap 155.[7][4]

Petty conducted another charge on the final lap and attempted to overtake the Mercury as they approached the tri-oval.[8][4] Pearson was able to hang on however, beating Petty to the line by half a car length to claim $15,650 in prize money, with Allison another length behind.[8][4][7][5] The drivers were three laps ahead of the rest of the field by the end.[9][7] This was Pearson's first win at a full-length Daytona race since the 1961 Firecracker 250.[8] Post-race, Pearson noted how close the race was, and believed Petty, who was suffering from heat exhaustion following the race, waited too long to try and pass him. Petty meanwhile stated he enjoyed the dogfight, praising Pearson and Allison for providing tense competition throughout the final 20 laps.[9]


According to NASCAR on TV, 30 minutes of highlights were broadcast by ABC on 22nd July 1972 as part of its Wide World of Sports, alongside the World Chess Championships and International Cliff Diving Championships.[10] But while confirmation of a broadcast has been achieved, no footage of the race is currently publicly available. A few photos, including some taken by Ted Richard, are however accessible.[11]



See Also