1974: Petty and Yarborough
The 1974 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
season was tested heavily by inflation,
high interest rates, the Arab oil embargo
and the ever-rising cost of auto racing.
Each created difficult challenges for
competitors and fans to overcome.
The energy crisis prompted Bill France Jr., president of
NASCAR, to mandate race distances for the first 15 of 30 Cup
Series races be reduced by 10 percent. Major team owners such
as Cotton Owens, Ray Nichels, Banjo Matthews and Ray Fox
elected to curtail or end their racing operations due to rising costs
and limited sponsorship.
Still, some of the very best on-track competition was evident
with every race on the circuit. Week after week, drivers Richard
Petty and Cale Yarborough consistently made headlines as race
winners, while David Pearson’s limited schedule with Wood Brothers Racing produced seven victories. Bobby Allison won on the
short track in Richmond, Va., driving his own Chevrolet, and again
in the season finale at California’s Ontario Motor Speedway in an
AMC Matador owned by Roger Penske.
Further, the Cup Series points system was overhauled in 1974 and
was the fourth procedure used to determine the series champion
since NASCAR was formed in February 1948. It was determined by
money winnings, multiplied by the number of races started, multiplied by 1,000, giving the number of points earned. As a result, Petty
and Yarborough ran away with the championship. At year’s end, the
point system was changed again amid controversy and confusion.
Also, rookie Earl Ross, a Canadian, was a surprise winner at
Martinsville Speedway in a Chevrolet fielded by Junior Johnson.
Ross took the lead from Buddy Baker with 79 laps remaining and
went on to collect his only Cup Series victory.
Jan. 26 Winston Western 500, Riverside International Raceway Cale Yarborough
Feb. 17 Daytona 500, Daytona International Speedway Richard Petty
Feb. 24 Richmond 500, Richmond International Raceway Bobby Allison
March 3 Carolina 500, North Carolina Speed way Richard Petty
March 17 Southeastern 500, Bristol Motor Speed way Cale Yarborough
March 24 Atlanta 500, Atlanta Motor Speedway Cale Yarborough
April 7 Rebel 500, Darlington Raceway David Pearson
April 21 Gwyn Staley 400, North Wilkesboro Speedway Richard Petty
April 28 Virginia 500, Martinsville Speedway Cale Yarborough
May 5 Winston 500, Talladega Superspeed way David Pearson
May 12 Music City USA 420, Nashville Fairgrounds Speed way Richard Petty
May 19 Mason-Dixon 500, Dover International Speedway Cale Yarborough
May 26 World 600, Charlotte Motor Speedway David Pearson
June 9 Tuborg 400, Riverside International Raceway Cale Yarborough
June 16 Motor State 400, Michigan International Speed way Richard Petty
July 4 Firecracker 400, Daytona International Speedway David Pearson
July 14 Volunteer 500, Bristol Motor Speed way Cale Yarborough
July 20 Nashville 420, Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway Cale Yarborough
July 28 Dixie 500, Atlanta Motor Speed way Richard Petty
Aug. 4 Purolator 500, Pocono Raceway Richard Petty
Aug. 11 Talladega 500, Talladega Superspeed way Richard Petty
Aug. 25 Yankee 400, Michigan International Speed way David Pearson
Sept. 2 Southern 500, Darlington Raceway Cale Yarborough
Sept. 8 Capital City 500, Richmond International Raceway Richard Petty
Sept. 15 Delaware 500, Dover International Speed way Richard Petty
Sept. 22 Wilkes 400, North Wilkesboro Speed way Cale Yarborough
Sept. 29 Old Dominion 500, Martinsville Speed way Earl Ross
Oct. 6 National 500, Charlotte Motor Speed way David Pearson
Oct. 20 American 500, North Carolina Speedway David Pearson
Nov. 24 Times 500, Ontario Motor Speed way Bobby Allison
1974 PRESIDENT: RICHARD NIXON NO. 1 SONG: “THE WAY WE WERE,” BY BARBARA STREISAND TOP HEADLINES: PRESIDENT NIXON RESIGNS OVER WATERGATE SCANDAL; OIL EMBARGO CREATES LONG LINES AT GAS PUMPS
RICHARD PETT Y’S
No. 43 Dodge Charger
collected 10 victories, 23
top- 10 finishes and the
Chevrolet Chevelle had
one less top-five finish
than Petty, and Yarborough
ended up second.
BEN WHI TE PHOTOS COUR TESY OF NASCAR
■ Cale Yarborough, winner of the Southern 500
IN JULY’S FIRECRACKER 400 AT
Daytona International Speedway, David
Pearson hit the brakes during the final lap,
allowing Richard Petty to take the lead. As
the two drivers came off of turn four, Pearson
dropped low and drafted past Petty at the
stripe to take the win by a mere car length.
The lead changed 45 times, a race record that
stood until 2010. Cale Yarborough and Buddy
Baker officially tied for third.
RICHARD PETTY DEFENDED HIS 1973
Daytona 500 victory and went on to establish
himself as the driver to beat for 1974. The Randle-man, N.C., native mastered the superspeed ways
and short tracks, winning one-third of the Cup
Series races on the 30-race schedule. His famed
fluorescent red and Petty blue Dodge rolled down
pit road to Victory Lane 10 times under the direction of crew chief Dale Inman. Petty collected his
fifth of seven championships that season.