1976 Champion Spark Plug 400 (lost footage of NASCAR Winston Cup Series race; 1976)

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Program for the race.

Status: Lost

The 1976 Champion Spark Plug 400 was the 20th race of the 1976 NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Occurring on 22nd August at the Michigan International Speedway, the race would ultimately be won by polesitter David Pearson in a Mercury, after completing a comeback to edge out Chevrolet's Cale Yarborough.


The 1976 Champion Spark Plug 400 was the 7th running of the event, with the annual race typically lasting around 400 miles in length.[1] It was one of two 1976 Winston Cup Series races conducted at Michigan International Speedway, the other being the Cam 2 Motor Oil 400,[2] which in 1976 occurred on 20th June and was won by David Pearson.[3] The race also has ties to the modern FireKeepers Casino 400, having dropped the Champion Spark Plug title from 1994.[4]

Prior to the race, qualifying commenced with Pearson winning the pole position with a speed of 140.078 mph.[1] Directly behind him was Buddy Baker in a Ford, with Yarborough lining up third.[1] Pearson was seeking to achieve the Michigan double for the season, after having won the Cam 2 Motor Oil 400 earlier in the year.[3]

The Race

With the starting order decided, the 1976 Champion Spark Plug 400 commenced on 22nd August.[1] Pearson maintained his lead until lap 10, when Chevrolet's Bruce Hill moved into the first position. The early stages of the race proved relatively an open competition, resulting in 34 lead changes throughout the event.[1] However, Yarborough appeared to be the favourite, being the only driver during the early-to-mid stages to lead consecutive laps in the double figures.[1] This included leading from lap 33 to 51, 71 to 88, 97 to 107, and 114 to 155.[1]

By lap 156,[1] Pearson was 32.9 seconds behind Yarborough, having generally trailed half a lap behind the leaders for most of the race.[5] However, following a spin by Chevrolet's Coo Coo Marlin, a caution period occurred.[5][1] This allowed Pearson to pit, where his Wood Brothers crew redistributed the car's weight.[5] This enhanced Pearson's performance when the race restarted on lap 171,[1] allowing him to get by Bobby Allison's Mercury for third, and Richard Petty's Dodge for second.[5] He eventually closed the gap to Yarborough, performing the final overtake for the first position on lap 183.[5][1] From there, he was able to successfully defend it from Yarborough, winning by 1.2 seconds and earning $16,700 in prize money.[5][1] Petty ultimately pipped Allison for third.[1][5]


According to NASCAR on TV, 30 minutes of highlights were televised by CBS on 28th August 1976 as part of its CBS Sports Spectacular, alongside the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix and a speedboat racing tournament.[6] However, this broadcast has yet to resurface. Additionally, Racing-Reference claims that footage of the race was originally uploaded to YouTube by racefan84 and 8mmhistory, both in 2018.[7] However, both videos are now inaccessible, with the racefan84 video being deleted, and 8mmhistory having privatised their footage. Thus, no clips of the race are currently publicly available, though photos and newspaper clippings remain viewable.



See Also