As difficult as it is for me to believe that we turn the calendar over to October already it is even more difficult for me to believe the race we feature today was 35 years ago. The year, 1978, seems like no more than two or three years ago! Wow, how time flies.
Today we feature the 1978 "Wilkes 400" at North Wilkesboro, NC which was 250 laps on the .625 mile paved track. Darrell Waltrip in the DiGard Chevrolet would start on the pole with a speed of 109.397 mph which was moving on in that era for a track that size. Benny Parsons qualified the L.G. DeWitt Chevy second, Cale Yarborough in Junior Johnsons Oldsmobile was third, Lennie Pond in the Harry Ranier Chevrolet fourth, and fifth place qualifier was Neil Bonnett in the Rod Osterlund Chevrolet.
Darrell Waltrip stormed into the lead when the green flag waved and led the first 382 laps as his competitors were fighting tire issues and other problems that kept anyone from competing with D.W. Problem was that no one was paying attention to the chassis adjustments the Junior Johnson crew was making on each stop for Cale. Suddenly, he was flying around the track and eating up the three lap deficit to D.W. Finally D.W. had to stop for tires and that was all Cale need to cement the win. He would finish 14 seconds ahead of D.W. for his ninth win of the season.
20,000 fans watched Cale average 97.847 mph for the race as only one caution flag for 4 laps slowed the pace. Cale was jumping up and down with joy with the win and said "that's the kind of race they write movie scripts about". Crew chief for Waltrip, Buddy Parrott, said "out tires wore out. Cale was flying. He never gave up". Bobby Allison, who also suffered major tire issues throughout the race said of Cale's win "I can't understand how Cale went 130 laps on on set of tires. Our tires wore out. Everyone's tires wore out. It may have been another of Junior Johnson's miracles."
Another interesting fact about this race is that the top ten qualifiers all finished in the top ten in the race. Oh, for sure, NOT in their qualifying positions but still in the top ten.
Top five finishers were:
1. Cale Yarborough, Junior Johnson Oldsmobile, winning $14.000.00
2. Darrell Waltrip, DiGard Chevrolet, winning $13,450 (14 seconds behind)
3. Bobby Allison, Bud Moore Ford, winning $6,075.00 (1 lap down)
4. Richard Petty, Petty Enterprises Chevrolet, winning $4,875.00 (3 laps down)
5. Neil Bonnett, Rod Osterlund Chevrolet, winning $4,400.00 (3 laps down)
Sixth through tenth were Benny Parsons, Lennie Pond, Dave Marcis, Dick Brooks and Tighe Scott. Parsons had started 2nd, Lennie Pond 4th, Marcis 9th, Brooks 7th, and Scott 10th.
J. D. McDuffie finished 11th, Buddy Arrington 12th, Richard Childress 13th, James Hylton 16th, Ronnie Thomas 19th, Jimmy Means 23rd, Frank Warren 24th, Dick May 25th, Cecil Gordon 26th.
Honor the past, embrace the present, dream for the future.
updated by @tim-leeming: 12/05/16 04:00:58PM