1978 Southern 500

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1978 Southern 500
Race details[1][2]
Race 22 of 30 in the 1978 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season
Layout of Darlington Raceway
Layout of Darlington Raceway
Date September 4, 1978 (1978-September-04)
Official name Southern 500
Location Darlington Raceway, Darlington, South Carolina
Course Permanent racing facility
1.375 mi (2.212 km)
Distance 367 laps, 500.5 mi (805.4 km)
Weather Very hot with temperatures of 88 °F (31 °C); wind speeds of 8.9 miles per hour (14.3 km/h)
Average speed 116.828 miles per hour (188.016 km/h)
Pole position
Driver Wood Brothers Racing
Time 31.998 seconds
Most laps led
Driver Cale Yarborough Junior Johnson & Associates
Laps 203
No. 11 Cale Yarborough Junior Johnson & Associates
Television in the United States
Network ABC
Announcers Keith Jackson
Chris Economaki

The 1978 Southern 500, the 29th running of the event, was a NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing event that took place on September 4, 1978, at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina.


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.[3] 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.[3] The front stretch (the location of the finish line) and the back stretch are banked at six degrees.[3] Darlington Raceway can seat up to 60,000 people.[3]

Darlington has something of a legendary quality among drivers and older fans; this is probably due to its long track length relative to other NASCAR speedways of its era and hence the first venue where many of them became cognizant of the truly high speeds that stock cars could achieve on a long track. The track allegedly earned the moniker The Lady in Black because the night before the race the track maintenance crew would cover the entire track with fresh asphalt sealant, in the early years of the speedway, thus making the racing surface dark black. Darlington is also known as "The Track Too Tough to Tame" because drivers can run lap after lap without a problem and then bounce off of the wall the following lap. Racers will frequently explain that they have to race the racetrack, not their competition. Drivers hitting the wall are considered to have received their "Darlington Stripe" thanks to the missing paint on the right side of the car.

Race report[edit]

40 competitors competed in this 367-lap race.[2] A crowd of 65000 fans cheered them on for four hours and seventeen minutes.[2] Nine cautions slowed the race for 72 laps; 21 changes for first-place position were made. The race leader remained unchanged for long periods of time; including Cale Yarborough's 69-lap lead which lasted from lap 118 to lap 186 and his late-race streak where he would take over the lead on lap 261 and would never relinquish it.[2][4]

Cale Yarborough would defeat future NASCAR on Fox personality Darrell Waltrip by three seconds while Richard Petty, rookie driver Terry Labonte, and Bobby Allison would round out the top five finishers.[2][4] Yarborough's win would become his fourth at the Southern 500.[5] Terry Labonte would make an impressive Winston Cup debut at this race. He was 11 laps down at the end, but finished fourth.[2]

Yarborough would retain the lead in championship points after this race.[2] Bruce Hill would finish in last place on lap 80 due to a problem with his vehicle's rear end.[2][4] David Pearson would get the pole position with a speed of 153.685 miles per hour (247.332 km/h).[2][4] D. K. Ulrich was cited for nitrous oxide in his vehicle and lost the rest of the 1978 Winston Cup Series season. Neil Bonnett had the most unfortunate incident by hitting the telephone wires while exiting pit road; nobody was injured.

Notable crew chiefs who participated in the race were Darrell Bryant, Junie Donlavey, Buddy Parrott, Jake Elder, Joey Arrington, Kirk Shelmerdine, Dale Inman and Bud Moore.[6]

The total purse of the race was $200,170 ($768,918 when considering inflation); Yarborough received $30,175 for winning the race. ($115,912 when considering inflation).[4]


Grid No. Driver Manufacturer Qualifying time[7] Speed[7] Owner
1 21 David Pearson Mercury 31.998 153.685 Wood Brothers
2 88 Darrell Waltrip Chevrolet 32.125 153.077 DiGard
3 15 Bobby Allison Ford 32.170 152.863 Bud Moore
4 72 Benny Parsons Chevrolet 32.285 152.318 L.G. DeWitt
5 54 Lennie Pond Chevrolet 32.302 152.238 Harry Ranier
6 11 Cale Yarborough Oldsmobile 32.314 152.182 Junior Johnson
7 1 Donnie Allison Chevrolet 32.397 151.792 Hoss Ellington
8 5 Neil Bonnett Chevrolet 32.424 151.665 Rod Osterlund
9 43 Richard Petty Chevrolet 32.431 151.633 Petty Enterprises
10 2 Dave Marcis Chevrolet 32.496 151.329 Rod Osterlund

Top ten finishers[edit]

Pos[2] Grid No. Driver Manufacturer Laps Winnings Laps led Points Time/Status
1 6 11 Cale Yarborough Oldsmobile 367 $30,175 203 185 4:17:46
2 2 88 Darrell Waltrip Chevrolet 367 $18,450 44 175 +3 seconds
3 9 43 Richard Petty Chevrolet 366 $13,175 1 170 +1 lap
4 19 92 Terry Labonte Chevrolet 356 $9,850 0 160 +11 laps
5 3 15 Bobby Allison Ford 355 $10,875 21 160 +12 laps
6 16 9 Bill Elliott Mercury 355 $5,200 0 150 +12 laps
7 25 48 James Hylton Chevrolet 353 $7,000 0 146 +14 laps
8 29 67 Buddy Arrington Dodge 350 $6,380 0 142 +17 laps
9 28 25 Ronnie Thomas Chevrolet 349 $6,270 0 138 +18 laps
10 4 72 Benny Parsons Chevrolet 348 $7,650 12 139 +19 laps

Standings after the race[edit]

Pos Driver Points[2] Differential
1 1rightarrow.png Cale Yarborough 3532 0
2 Increase Benny Parsons 3244 -288
3 Decrease Dave Marcis 3197 -335
4 1rightarrow.png Darrell Waltrip 3083 -449
5 1rightarrow.png Bobby Allison 3001 -531
6 1rightarrow.png Richard Petty 2966 -566
7 Increase Buddy Arrington 2724 -808
8 Decrease Lennie Pond 2708 -824
9 1rightarrow.png Dick Brooks 2643 -889
10 1rightarrow.png Richard Childress 2586 -946


  1. ^ Weather information for the 1978 Southern 500 at The Old Farmers' Almanac
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k 1978 Southern 500 at Racing Reference. Accessed 2012-03-05. Archived 2012-03-07.
  3. ^ a b c d "Darlington Raceway". CBS Sports. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
  4. ^ a b c d e 1978 Southern 500 racing information at Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet. Accessed 2012-03-05. Archived 2012-03-07.
  5. ^ 1978 SOUTHERN 500 - Yarborough makes it four at YouTube
  6. ^ 1978 Southern 500 crew chiefs information at Racing Reference
  7. ^ a b "1978 Southern 500 qualifying information". Racing Reference. Retrieved 2017-04-21.
Preceded by
1978 Volunteer 500
NASCAR Winston Cup Series Season
Succeeded by
1978 Capital City 400
Preceded by
Southern 500 races
Succeeded by