David Pearson was in the midst of a historic 10-race run early in the 1973 Cup season when the series rolled into Darlington Raceway for the April 15 race.
The track would be the site of 10 of Pearson’s 105 Cup Series wins, but none were quite like this one.
Pearson started on the pole in his No. 21 Wood Brothers Mercury and led 246 of the race’s 367 laps, including the final 176.
The race was a mess, as 11 cautions slowed the race for 71 laps, most of them for wrecks. Only 14 of the 40 cars finished the race.
But none of those that made it to the end would be close to Pearson.
Bobby Allison was the only driver with a shot, but his engine expired with 18 laps to go. He still finished third.
While the damaged car of Benny Parson puttered around the track at 40 mph to a second-place finish, Pearson ran away and won by 13 laps. According to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era,” it was the largest win on a speedway since Ned Jarrett won the 1965 Southern 500 by 14 laps.
“If David Pearson had fallen out of the race in the last 20 laps, we’d have been here until June trying to figure out who won,” joked NASCAR’s scoring director, Morris Metcalfe, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing.”
Also on this date:
1962: Richard Petty won at North Wilkesboro for the sixth Cup win of his career. According to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Superspeedway Boom,” a caution had to be put out on Lap 250 so that a fuel truck could get more gas. Pit crews were seen scrambling in the infield with buckets and hoses as they siphoned gas from street cars to fuel race cars. The lack of gas was attributed to 23 of race’s initial 35 cars running at the end. The fuel truck never made it back to the track.
1963: Jim Paschal won a 200-lap race at Bowman-Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It capped three consecutive days of Grand National Series races in three different states, preceded by events at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in South Carolina and South Boston Speedway in Virginia. In addition to the 300 miles drivers raced on-track, those who competed in all three races would have had to travel roughly 380 miles between tracks.
1971: Petty won at Smokey Mountain Raceway in Maryville, Tennessee, over Benny Parsons for his sixth win in the first 13 races of the season. It was the last of 12 races the Grand National Series held at the .520-mile short track, beginning in 1965.
1984: Darrell Waltrip led 251 of 367 laps to win at Darlington in a race that, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era,” saw 25 of 38 cars damaged in some form. “This race was like putting a bunch of piranha in a pool with one piece of meat,” Waltrip said.
2007: Ten years after he christened the track with his first career Cup win in its inaugural race, Jeff Burton became the first driver to win two Cup races at Texas Motor Speedway. He led only the last lap after passing Matt Kenseth.