Tonight marks the return of the Southern 500 to Labor Day weekend at Darlington Speedway, South Carolina! Little known fact: I was born 10 miles from Darlington Speedway.
The 1974 Southern 500 is one of the classic races in this golden age of NASCAR. In 1974, my parents have not even met — I was born under Reagan — even though they are both from the Florence-Darlington area of eastern South Carolina, not far from Myrtle Beach.
In 1974, Dolly Parton is dominating the country charts and Bob Dylan is hitting the road for the first time in eight years. It’s a good year. At the first “super speedway” on the NASCAR circuit, the small town of Darlington is receiving some racing legends: Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Richard Petty, Buddy Baker, and a young Darrell Waltrip.
This was back when “stock car racing” actually involved stock cars, with working headlights and everything. My dad went to a Darlington race in the late 60’s, and when one of the teams needed a new car soon before the race, they simply went to a local dealership and bought a new car, making some modifications back at the track in their garage. That’s true stock car racing.
Richard Petty is on the pole. Cale Yarborugh is a favorite to win. Cale won the Southern 500 the previous year and in 1968, an epic year for him when he also started and finished the Daytona 500 in first place.
Here is the summary report after the 1974 Southern 500:
I love these retro NASCAR videos. It continues with part two and part three. Throughout the fifties, sixties, and seventies, NASCAR races were not broadcast live. Instead, they were given an official summary report, normally about a half-hour long. The 1979 Daytona 500 was the first NASCAR race broadcast live from beginning to end. Richard Petty won.
You can watch a documentary on the ’79 Daytona 500:
You will not regret watching this documentary!
You can also watch the official race summary of the 1984 Firecracker 400 at Daytona, where President Reagan lands and congratulates Richard Petty on his 200th win! This is one of the greatest moments in NASCAR history. It also involves an “infamous fistfight” between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison.