Racing History Minute - 1979 Winston-Western 500 (311.78 miles)

Tim Leeming
@tim-leeming
01/21/14 09:50:00AM
3,105 posts

The first race of the 1979 season would unfold at the Riverside Raceway road course in California. There would be 68,000 fans gathering to watch the event unfold. The race was January 14, 1979, and we all know what would happen in racing just over a month later in Daytona that would catapult a national television audience into the world of NASCAR racing. But, let's go back and recall a Sunday afternoon in January, 1979, in California.

David Pearson, once again in the Wood Brothers Mercury, would nail down the pole with a qualifying speed of 113.659 mph. Cale Yarborough in the Junior Johnson Oldsmobile would defend his title from the previous year by starting second. Bobby Allison in the Bud Moore Ford would start third, Darrell Waltrip in the DiGard Chevrolet he had named "Wanda" would start fourth and Benny Parsons in the M.C. Anderson Chevrolet would rumble under the green in fifth starting spot.

The first 30 laps of the scheduled 119 were hotly contested between Yarborough, Waltrip, Bobby Allison, Pearson and Al Holbert before Waltrip was able to put together a lead from lap 31 to 59. On lap 60 Holbert took over again, but Pearson moved him aside two laps later to lead a lap before Waltrip and Wanda came storming back.

Waltrip,Pearson and Yarborough, kept the fans entertained as they traded the lead among themselves through lap 106 when Waltrip took over and had actually opened a lead of more than 15 seconds over the second place fight between Pearson and Yarborough.

The thunderclouds were rolling in over the track as Waltrip was whipping "Wanda" around the twisting track as hard as he could, knowing full well that he had two of the best, Pearson and Yarborough, coming after him. The thunder was booming and, in fact, rain started to fall in the final circuits. Pearson was gaining on Waltrip and Yarborough was driving the wheels off the Oldsmobile and coming on strong. The race completed the full 119 laps, even as the huge raindrops fell on the cars, and Waltrip would win with a 3.27 second lead over David Pearson. Even though Pearson would finish second, it was Yarborough who worried Waltrip. Waltrip said, from Victory Lane, that "the only thunder I heard was that Oldsmobile (Yarborough) behind me". Pearson actually took second place from Yarborough on a last lap pass.

Richard Petty, who was suffering the longest losing streak in his career at 45 races after losing the engine in his Chevrolet on the 14th lap. Uncharacteristic for The King, he was preparing a new Oldsmobile for the upcoming Daytona 500.

Waltrip completed the 500 kilometers at an average speed of 107.820 mph (some of you experts convert that to kmh) and let us know how that equates. There were no caution flags displayed in the race.

Finishing order:

1. Darrell Waltrip, DiGard Chevrolet, winning $21,150.00

2. David Pearson, Wood Brothers Mercury, winning $14,200.00 (3.27 seconds back)

3. Cale Yarborough, Junior Johnson Oldsmobile, winning $12,675.00

4. Bill Schmidt, Schmidt Oldsmobile, winning $8,800.00 (1 lap down)

5. Donnie Allison, Hoss Ellington Chevrolet, winning $7,550.00 (1 lap down)

6. Joe Milligan

7. Buddy Baker

8. Jim Thirkettle

9.Tim Williamson

10. Harry Gant

11. James Hylton

12. Ronnie Thomas

13. Vince Giamforgiaggio

14. D. K.Ulrich

15. Richard Childress

16. Jimmy Insolo

17. J. D. McDuffie

18.Buddy Arrington

19.Bobby Allison

20. Al Holbert

21. Dale Earnhardt

22. Don Graham

23. Harry Goulartte

24. Dave Marcis

25. Cecil Gordon

26. Benny Parsons

27. Frank Warren

28. Don Puskarich

29. Richard White

30. Jim Robinson

31. Don Noel

32. Richard Petty

33. Dick Brooks

34. Neil Bonnett

35. Terry Labonte

Honor the past, embrace the present, dream for the future


updated by @tim-leeming: 12/05/16 04:00:58PM
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
01/21/14 12:00:26PM
3,616 posts

Now you're getting into the Scott Baker camera era. Hopefully he'll share some good ones here - especially Buddy Baker's Harry Ranier car - before it became the gray ghost.




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
Tim Leeming
@tim-leeming
01/21/14 03:06:23PM
3,105 posts

Hope Scott does share some great photos Chase.

Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
01/21/14 04:14:08PM
8,893 posts

20th place finisher, Al Holbert was a 5-Time IMSA Camel GT Series sports car champion. During the weekend of a 1988 race event in Columbus, Ohio, Holbert's aircraft experienced problems and he steered it away from a group of houses before it crashed and killed Holbert. IMSA retired his car number following the crash.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

By Rich Henson, Inquirer Staff Writer
Posted: October 02, 1988

Alvah R. Holbert, America's winningest road-racing driver and director of motor sports for Porsche/-North America, was killed Friday when the twin- engine plane he was piloting crashed shortly after takeoff from Ohio State University's Don Scott Field in Columbus.

Mr. Holbert, 41, who lived in Doylestown, was pronounced dead at the scene. Sgt. Ronald Hanks, of the Ohio Highway Patrol's aviation division, which is based at the same airfield where Mr. Holbert crashed, said his plane plunged nose-first into an open field about one mile from the airstrip and exploded. The accident occurred about 9:25 p.m.

Representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were handling the investigation yesterday. Hanks said the cause of the accident was not yet known.

"There were 18 or 20 some witnesses, and most of them said they heard some kind of engine noises," said Hanks, himself a pilot. "But when you're in a nose dive like that, the engine always revs up anyway. We're really not sure what happened."

A spokesman for the Franklin County Coroner's Office said that Mr. Holbert's body was badly burned and that preliminary results of an autopsy performed yesterday would probably not be available for a few days.

Hanks said Mr. Holbert, an experienced pilot, was on his way back to Doylestown after spending the day in Columbus with his racing crew; he was planning to enter two Porsche cars in today's International Motor Sports Association's Columbus 500. Both cars were withdrawn from the race.

Mr. Holbert, himself an engineer, had built a spectacular career in auto racing and was involved in a number of businesses, all based in Bucks County.

He owned an Audi, Porsche and Volkswagen dealership in Warrington, and headed Holbert Aviation, which owned the twin-engine Aerostar in which he crashed.

Mr. Holbert had 63 career racing victories, including 49 IMSA wins and five series championships, both IMSA records. He won the 24 Hours of LeMans, a French road race, three times.

Mr. Holbert was born in Abington and spent most of his life in lower Bucks County. He earned a mechanical engineering degree from Lehigh University and immediately went into racing, following in the footsteps of his father, Robert Holbert, who raced cars in the 1950s and 1960s. The elder Holbert still resides in Doylestown.

Ernie Saxton, president of the Eastern Motor Sports Press Association and a longtime friend, said Mr. Holbert's death shocked the racing industry.

"When you look at a guy like Al, to have so many impressive racing credentials and to never get injured in auto racing, then to die in this kind of fashion, is just amazing," Saxton said. "He was not only a successful racer, but an intelligent businessman and a born-again Christian. He didn't have an enemy in the world. He lived a clean life. He was the kind of guy you would want to pattern your own son after."

Saxton said his organization had planned to honor Mr. Holbert during a banquet in January. "This is really quite a shock," he said.

Said IMSA president John Bishop: "How a man so competitive could be so human and soft impressed me. He was a gentleman all the way through. Obviously, he'll leave a huge hole with us. We'll miss him very much."

Surviving in addition to his father are his wife, Joy; a son, Todd, 14, and a daughter, Laura, 13. Funeral arrangements were expected to be finalized today.




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
01/21/14 04:36:26PM
8,893 posts

On February 2, 1989, the Spartanburg Herald-Journal carried the story below:




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
01/21/14 05:48:06PM
3,616 posts

TheDaytona Beach Morning Journal previewed the race as The King prepared to race for the first time since his stomach ulcer surgery. For reasons that aren't clear, 18 year old Kyle was stranded in Minnesota awaiting snow to clear to fly to Riverside. From the sound of things, its possible Kyle COULD have made his racing debut by being Richard's relief driver if one was needed. Yep, if it came down to a choice of relief driver the Petty team could put an 18 year old raw rookie with the same last name behind the wheel - or a racing legend and multi-time Riverside winner Hershel McGriff. I think I know who would have belted in had the King not been able to go the distance.




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
01/21/14 05:57:50PM
3,616 posts

Race report from Spartanburg Herald Journal




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Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
Scott Baker
@scott-baker
01/21/14 07:47:49PM
69 posts

Scott Baker
@scott-baker
01/21/14 07:49:54PM
69 posts

Great? Ha!!! But here goes nothing. Race day dawned overcast and cold

Scott Baker
@scott-baker
01/21/14 08:00:36PM
69 posts

A few images from practice and the race:

Cale:

Darrell Waltrip & Cale Yarborough:

The late Tim Williamson:

And for TMC Chase:

Pace Lap:

Race Action - Pearson, Waltrip, Allison, Parsons:

Race Action - 4th Place Finisher Bill Schmidt, Benny Parsons, Jimmy Insolo, Dale Earnhardt:

Race Action - Cale, Bobby, Richard, David

And one more for TMC Chase - KABOOM!!!!!

bill mcpeek
@bill-mcpeek
01/21/14 09:18:54PM
820 posts

Great story and fantastic photo's, thanks to all you guys that make this possible.

TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
01/21/14 10:06:21PM
3,616 posts

Noticeably absent from the hood of the 43 Chevy? An STP decal. Richard still wore the sponsor emblem on the quarter panels, but the Petty team let it be known more support was needed. When the dollars didn't flow, the team removed the STP from the hood. When the company STILL didn't get the message, the 43 ran a Petty blue only hood in the Daytona 500 without the day-glo stripes - and won.

Even his 6th win in the 500 didn't open the coffers as might have been expected. So the Level Cross removed the STP red from the sides the next race at Richmond. (fromCraig Bontrager pics)

That finally seemed to do the trick. Thereafter, full STP colors and and decals returned. That is, the check cleared the bank I'm sure.




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.

updated by @tmc-chase: 01/11/17 11:44:44AM
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
01/21/14 10:33:45PM
3,616 posts

DW gets the Double Smooch from Stevie and RR member Doshia Wall. Published in the Gadsden Times.




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
Scott Baker
@scott-baker
01/21/14 11:08:05PM
69 posts

One of these days I will spell Bill Schmitt's name right. I type Schmidt EVERY TIME.

TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
01/21/14 11:37:12PM
3,616 posts

This on your mind?




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
Tim Leeming
@tim-leeming
01/21/14 11:50:52PM
3,105 posts

Scott, I've looked at every picture you posted and can only say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! These History Minutes are hopefully sharing some memories for some and giving some of the younger folks an idea about what it was like back then. Those pictures certainly help a great deal. Keep it up, PLEASE. 1980 race coming tomorrow.

Sandeep Banerjee
@sandeep-banerjee
01/22/14 04:58:07AM
358 posts

Thanks Dave. Holbert's death was a quite a loss to racing.

Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
01/22/14 12:50:10PM
8,893 posts

Scott, don't worry about the spelling. Your photos are simply outstanding. By the way, Bill Schmitt was one of the nicest guys I met in racing. After I sponsored the 7-Eleven Winston West race at Phoenix in November 1984, Bill sought me out personally to thank me and tell me how much the other drivers and car owners had appreciated our sponsorship. Class act.




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Scott Baker
@scott-baker
01/22/14 07:54:37PM
69 posts

Dave:

I agree with your assessment of Mr. Schmitt (Ha! Got it right)

Years ago I was contacted by his wife looking for some historical images to use as part of a surprise party gift for Bill, A very gracious lady.

Tim Leeming
@tim-leeming
01/22/14 09:11:57PM
3,105 posts

I do the same thing Scott. Now that you have called that to my attention, I am being more careful. Habits are rough to break, especially when one of my son's best friends has the last name Schmidt. Thanks, my friend, for your addition to these posts.

TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
01/14/16 09:28:36AM
3,616 posts




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
01/14/16 09:58:03AM
3,616 posts




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
01/14/16 10:24:49AM
3,616 posts




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
01/11/17 11:45:13AM
3,616 posts

Bump




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Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.