1973 Southern 500

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1973 Southern 500
Race details[1]
Race 22 of 28 in the 1973 NASCAR Winston Cup Series
Layout of Darlington Raceway
Layout of Darlington Raceway
Date September 3, 1973 (1973-09-03)
Official name Southern 500
Location Darlington Raceway, Darlington, South Carolina
Course 1.375 mi (2.212 km)
Distance 367 laps, 500.5 mi (805.4 km)

Race start time: Extremely hot with temperatures of 95 °F (35 °C)
Race end time: Extremely hot with temperatures of 100 °F (38 °C)

Wind speeds of 8.1 miles per hour (13.0 km/h)
Average speed 134.033 miles per hour (215.705 km/h)
Attendance 70,000[2]
Pole position
Driver Wood Brothers Racing
Most laps led
Driver Cale Yarborough Howard & Egerton Racing
Laps 277
No. 11 Cale Yarborough Howard & Egerton Racing
Television in the United States
Network ABC
Announcers Bill Flemming
Chris Economaki
Radio in the United States
Radio Darlington Universal Racing Network (URN)
Booth Announcers Dave "Silver Throat" Rogers, Hal Hamrick
Turn Announcers Charlie Bailey, Paul Sexton, Earl Kelley, Dick Jones

The 1973 Southern 500, the 24th running of the event, was a NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing event held on September 3, 1973, at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina.

Bud Moore would compete in his last NASCAR Cup Series as a driver after this event.[3]

Jackie Cooper was named honorary race marshal for the 1973 Southern 500.[4]


Darlington Raceway, nicknamed by many NASCAR fans and drivers as "The Lady in Black" or "The Track Too Tough to Tame" and advertised as a "NASCAR Tradition", is a race track built for NASCAR racing located near Darlington, South Carolina. It is of a unique, somewhat egg-shaped design, an oval with the ends of very different configurations, a condition which supposedly arose from the proximity of one end of the track to a minnow pond the owner refused to relocate. This situation makes it very challenging for the crews to set up their cars' handling in a way that will be effective at both ends.

The track is a four-turn 1.366 miles (2.198 km) oval.[5] The track's first two turns are banked at twenty-five degrees, while the final two turns are banked two degrees lower at twenty-three degrees.[5] The front stretch (the location of the finish line) and the back stretch is banked at six degrees.[5] Darlington Raceway can seat up to 60,000 people.[5]


Before Race Weekend[edit]

Jim Vandiver, who was dealing with a child custody case with his first wife, was to appear in a Greenville, South Carolina court on Friday, August 31 for a hearing. He was assured by his lawyer that appearing would not be necessary because he was expected in Darlington. The judge at the hearing did not consider this grounds for absence, and found Vandiver in contempt of court. An arrest warrant was issued.[6]


Pole position for the Southern 500 was taken by David Pearson, of Wood Brothers Racing.[2]

Grid No. Driver Manufacturer Owner[2]
1 21 David Pearson '71 Mercury Wood Brothers
2 12 Bobby Allison '73 Chevrolet Bobby Allison
3 43 Richard Petty '73 Dodge Petty Enterprises
4 15 Darrell Waltrip '72 Ford Bud Moore
5 71 Buddy Baker '73 Dodge Nord Krauskopf
6 28 Charlie Glotzbach '73 Chevrolet Hoss Ellington
7 73 Benny Parsons '73 Chevrolet L.G. DeWitt
8 11 Cale Yarborough '73 Chevrolet Richard Howard
9 54 Lennie Pond '73 Chevrolet Ronnie Elder
10 77 Charlie Roberts '72 Chevrolet Charlie Roberts
11 18 Joe Frasson '73 Dodge Joe Frasson
12 67 Buddy Arrington '72 Dodge Buddy Arrington
13 24 Cecil Gordon '72 Chevrolet Cecil Gordon
14 14 Coo Coo Marlin '72 Chevrolet H.B. Cunningham
15 49 G.C. Spencer '72 Dodge G.C. Spencer
16 31 Jim Vandiver '72 Dodge O.L. Nixon
17 64 Elmo Langley '72 Ford Elmo Langley
18 03 Tommy Gale '71 Mercury Tommy Gale
19 29 Dick May '71 Mercury Bill Hollar
20 48 James Hylton '71 Mercury James Hylton


Neil Castles, who qualified 38th in a Dodge, withdrew before the race. First alternate Mel Larson took his place, 40th on the grid.[7]

Two Greenville County sheriff's deputies arrived at Darlington on race day. In Darlington Raceway president Barney Wallace's office, they informed him of their intent to arrest Vandiver on the contempt charge. Wallace convinced them to make their arrest after the race. Neil Castles had been in Wallace's office at the time, overheard this conversation, and informed Vandiver before the race.[6]

Early in the race, Roy Mayne relieved Jabe Thomas in his car. NASCAR points structure meant that Thomas would receive the points for Mayne's finish.[4] Other drivers took advantage of a relief driver, in part because of the very hot day. Richard Petty was one of these.

40 drivers competed in this race; only one foreigner competed - Canadian-born Vic Parsons. This event took three hours and forty-four minutes to complete 367 laps. Richard Childress was credited as the last-place finisher due to a problem with his engine on lap 19. Frank Warren was the lowest-finishing driver to complete the event while being nearly 100 laps behind the lead lap cars.

Jim Vandiver, who was already nursing a problematic engine, would deliberately spin his car on lap 223, on Darlington's backstretch. This caused a caution, and in a break in race traffic, Vandiver jumped the back fence and left raceway property. From there, he hitchhiked home to Monroe, North Carolina, and thus avoided arrest on race day.[6]

Joe Frasson's problematic engine on lap 304 would force him to finish in the middle of the pack.[2]

Cale Yarborough defeated David Pearson under caution in front 70,000 fans. Pearson would qualify for the pole position at 150.366 miles per hour (241.991 km/h) during the solo qualifying sessions. Average race speed was 134.033 miles per hour (215.705 km/h) due to the seven yellow flags for 37 laps.[2] Chevrolet and Ford were the dominant manufacturers at this race. Richard D. Brown quit this race on lap 30 for no apparent reason.[2]

Notable crew chiefs in this race were Tim Brewer, Travis Carter, Harry Hyde, Dale Inman, Tom Vandiver, and Jake Elder.[8]

Race earnings ranged from the winner's portion of $23,140 ($130,600 when adjusted for inflation) to the last-place finisher's portion of $1,700 ($9,595 when adjusted for inflation) from a total prize of $126,725. ($715,227 when adjusted for inflation).[9]

Finishing order[edit]

Section reference:[2]

  1. Cale Yarborough (No. 11)
  2. David Pearson (No. 21)
  3. Buddy Baker (No. 71)
  4. Richard Petty (No. 43)
  5. Benny Parsons (No. 72)
  6. Bobby Allison (No. 12)
  7. Coo Coo Marlin (No. 14)
  8. Darrell Waltrip (No. 15)
  9. Dick Brooks (No. 61)
  10. J.D. McDuffie (No. 70)
  11. Cecil Gordon (No. 24)
  12. James Hylton (No. 48)
  13. Jabe Thomas (No. 25)
  14. Buddy Arrington (No. 67)
  15. Randy Tissot (No. 74)
  16. Charlie Roberts (No. 77)
  17. Walter Ballard (No. 30)
  18. D.K. Ulrich (No. 40)
  19. Dean Dalton (No. 7)
  20. Henley Gray (No. 19)
  21. Mel Larson (No. 73)
  22. Bill Champion (No. 10)
  23. Joe Frasson* (No. 18)
  24. Frank Warren (No. 79)
  25. Raymond Williams* (No. 47)
  26. Ed Negre* (No. 4)
  27. Jim Vandiver* (No. 31)
  28. David Sisco* (No. 05)
  29. Bud Moore* (No. 90)
  30. Charlie Glotzbach* (No. 28)
  31. Elmo Langley* (No. 64)
  32. Dick May* (No. 29)
  33. Richie Panch* (No. 98)
  34. Vic Parsons* (No. 45)
  35. Johnny Barnes* (No. 89)
  36. Tommy Gale* (No. 03)
  37. Lennie Pond* (No. 54)
  38. Richard D. Brown* (No. 44)
  39. G.C. Spencer* (No. 49)
  40. Richard Childress* (No. 36)

* Driver failed to finish race


  1. ^ Weather information for the 1973 Southern 500 at Weather Underground (Florence, S.C.)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g 1973 Southern 500 racing information at Racing Reference
  3. ^ Results of the 1973 Southern 500 at Race Database
  4. ^ a b "Original Race Broadcast by Motor Racing Network on iTunes". iTunes. Retrieved 2016-03-29.
  5. ^ a b c d "Darlington Raceway". CBS Sports. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
  6. ^ a b c A Sit Down With Jim Vandiver; A True Pioneer Of NASCAR at Bleacher Report
  7. ^ "Beckley Post-Herald, Page 2 - at Newspapers.com". Pearson, Petty Head Up Field. 1973-09-03. Retrieved 2016-03-29.
  8. ^ 1973 Southern 500 crew chiefs information at Racing Reference
  9. ^ Winnings information for the 1973 Southern 500 at Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet
Preceded by
1973 Nashville 420
Winston Cup Series races
Succeeded by
1973 Capital City 500
Preceded by
Southern 500 races
Succeeded by