1979 Southeastern 500

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1979 Southeastern 500
Race details[1][2]
Race 7 of 31 in the 1979 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season
Map of the Bristol Motor Speedway
Map of the Bristol Motor Speedway
Date April 1, 1979 (1979-April-01)
Official name Southeastern 500
Location Bristol International Raceway, Bristol, Tennessee
Course Permanent racing facility
0.533 mi (0.857 km)
Distance 500 laps, 266.5 mi (428.8 km)
Weather Mild with temperatures reaching a maximum of 71.1 °F (21.7 °C); wind speeds approaching 7 miles per hour (11 km/h)
Average speed 91.033 miles per hour (146.503 km/h)
Attendance 26,000
Pole position
Driver Ranier Racing
Most laps led
Driver Dale Earnhardt Osterlund Motorsports
Laps 163
No. 2 Dale Earnhardt Osterlund Motorsports
Television in the United States
Network untelevised
Announcers none

The 1979 Southeastern 500 was a NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing event that took place on April 1, 1979, at Bristol Motor Speedway in the American community of Bristol, Tennessee. Rookie Dale Earnhardt got his first win of his very successful career in this race.

By the following season, NASCAR had completely stopped tracking the year model of all the vehicles and most teams did not take stock cars to the track under their own power anymore.


Five hundred laps were completed on a paved oval track spanning 0.533 miles (0.858 km) in only two hours and fifty-five minutes.[2] Six cautions were given out by NASCAR for 44 laps.[2] Twenty-six thousand people attended this live event to see Dale Earnhardt defeat Bobby Allison by a time of three seconds.[2][3] Jake Elder was Earnhardt's crew chief at that time; his nickname was "Suitcase" because he would help a NASCAR driver achieve glory and then leave him for another driver the following season. The notable speeds were: 91.033 miles per hour (146.503 km/h) for the average speed[4] and 111.668 miles per hour (179.712 km/h) for the pole position speed achieved by Buddy Baker.[2]

Chevrolet vehicles made up the majority of the 30-car racing grid.[2][2] This race would be notable for starting the Earnhardt family's legacy of winning. Millikan would catch something in his eye and would have to report to hospital; J.D. McDuffie ended up being the substitute driver for him.

Many souvenirs were cheap back then with a Richard Petty hat costing $5 USD ($16.50 when adjusted for inflation) and a ticket to the race costing $16 USD ($52.80 when adjusted for inflation). The winner of the race would receive a purse of $19,800 ($65,337.28 when adjusted for inflation).[5] One of the most notable moments of the race was when Darrell Waltrip lost the race lead to Earnhardt with only 27 laps to go.[6]

Ralph Jones (a driver-owner) was the last-place finisher of this race; he was forced to end his participation in the race due to brake issues on lap 31. There were three terminal crashes in the race along with three engine failures, one quitter along with a driver with a water pump issues in his vehicle and a driver with a defective rear end on his vehicle.[2]


Grid No. Driver Manufacturer
1 28 Buddy Baker Chevrolet
2 88 Darrell Waltrip Chevrolet
3 1 Donnie Allison Chevrolet
4 15 Bobby Allison Ford
5 11 Cale Yarborough Oldsmobile
6 27 Benny Parsons Oldsmobile
7 70 J.D. McDuffie Chevrolet
8 02 Dave Marcis Chevrolet
9 2 Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet
10 44 Terry Labonte Chevrolet

Top ten finishers[edit]

  1. Dale Earnhardt (No. 2)
  2. Bobby Allison (No. 15)
  3. Darrell Waltrip (No. 88)
  4. Richard Petty (No. 43), 2 laps behind
  5. Benny Parsons (No. 27), 3 laps behind
  6. Donnie Allison (No. 1), 5 laps behind
  7. Terry Labonte (No. 44), 10 laps behind
  8. Joe Millikan (No. 72), 14 laps behind
  9. James Hylton (No. 78), 14 laps behind
  10. Ricky Rudd (No. 90), 15 laps behind


  • Start of race: Buddy Baker had the pole position to begin the event
  • Lap 31: Ralph Jones' brakes became problematic; forcing him out of the event
  • Lap 33: Bobby Wawak chose to quit the race
  • Lap 100: Jimmy Means managed to blow his engine
  • Lap 139: Dale Earnhardt took over the lead from Buddy Baker
  • Lap 141: Donnie Allison took over the lead from Dale Earnhardt; Dick May managed to blow his engine
  • Lap 142: Cale Yarborough took over the lead from Donnie Allison
  • Lap 143: Darrell Waltrip took over the lead from Cale Yarborough
  • Lap 197: J.D. McDuffie lost the rear end of his vehicle, forcing an early exit due to safety concerns
  • Lap 211: Buddy Baker had a terminal crash
  • Lap 213: Bobby Allison took over the lead from Darrell Waltrip
  • Lap 216: Cale Yarborough had a terminal crash
  • Lap 255: Dale Earnhardt took over the lead from Bobby Allison
  • Lap 335: Ronnie Thomas had a terminal crash
  • Lap 366: Dick Brooks had to leave the event due to his vehicle having a faulty water pump
  • Lap 385: Harry Gant managed to blow his vehicle's engine
  • Lap 389: Darrell Waltrip took over the lead from Dale Earnhardt
  • Lap 474: Dale Earnhardt took over the lead from Darrell Waltrip
  • Finish: Dale Earnhardt was officially declared the winner of the event

Standings after the race[edit]

Pos Driver Points[2] Differential
1 Bobby Allison 1146 -0
2 Darrell Waltrip 1132 -14
3 Cale Yarborough 1028 -118
4 Benny Parsons 978 -168
5 Dale Earnhardt 975 -171
6 Donnie Allison 972 -174
7 Joe Millikan 953 -193
8 Richard Petty 939 -207
9 D.K. Ulrich 886 -260
10 Richard Childress 854 -292


  1. ^ "Weather at the 1979 Southeastern 500 race". The Old Farmers' Almanac. Retrieved 2012-08-05. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "1979 Southeastern 500 racing results". Racing Reference. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  3. ^ "Dale Earnhardt's 1st Win Statistics". Decades of Racing. Retrieved 2011-01-12. 
  4. ^ "Average Speed (1979 Southeastern 500)". Ultimate Racing History. Retrieved 2011-01-12. 
  5. ^ "Dale Earnhardt's First Victory Purse". Hardcore Fans. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  6. ^ "The Earnhardt-Waltrip Fiasco". How Stuff Works. Retrieved 2011-01-12. 
Preceded by
1979 Northwestern Bank 400
NASCAR Winston Cup Series Season
Succeeded by
1979 CRC Chemicals Rebel 500