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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. The race was notable as then-rookie driver Dale Earnhardt got the first win of his career, he would later go on to win 76 races and 7 championships.

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


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 slowed the race 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] 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.

The winner of the race would receive a purse of $19,800 ($68,351.31 when adjusted for inflation).[5] Earnhardt took the lead on lap 474 from Darrell Waltrip and lead until the finish. If he wrecked Waltrip, it must not have been too bad because he still finished on the lead lap.[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]

Mike Potter's career of sporadic starts in Cup and start-and-parks in Busch began in this race.[2] Elmo Langley would enjoy his last real competitive race at this venue.[2] He'd have a few start and parks after this but this was the last time he really tried to finish a race.


Grid[2] No. Driver Manufacturer Owner
1 28 Buddy Baker Chevrolet Harry Ranier
2 88 Darrell Waltrip Chevrolet DiGard Racing
3 1 Donnie Allison Chevrolet Hoss Ellington
4 15 Bobby Allison Ford Bud Moore
5 11 Cale Yarborough Oldsmobile Junior Johnson
6 27 Benny Parsons Oldsmobile M.C. Anderson
7 70 J.D. McDuffie Chevrolet J.D. McDuffie
8 02 Dave Marcis Chevrolet Dave Marcis
9 2 Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet Rod Osterlund
10 44 Terry Labonte Chevrolet Billy Hagan
11 40 D.K. Ulrich Chevrolet D.K. Ulrich
12 72 Joe Millikan Chevrolet L.G. DeWitt
13 43 Richard Petty Oldsmobile Petty Enterprises
14 3 Richard Childress Chevrolet Richard Childress
15 90 Ricky Rudd Ford Junie Donlavey
16 48 James Hylton Chevrolet James Hylton
17 47 Harry Gant Oldsmobile Jack Beebe
18 25 Ronnie Thomas Chevrolet Don Robertson
19 79 Frank Warren Dodge Frank Warren
20 17 Roger Hamby Oldsmobile Roger Hamby


  1. Dale Earnhardt (No. 2)
  2. Bobby Allison (No. 15)
  3. Darrell Waltrip (No. 88)
  4. Richard Petty (No. 43), 2 laps down
  5. Benny Parsons (No. 27), 3 laps down
  6. Donnie Allison (No. 1), 5 laps down
  7. Terry Labonte (No. 44), 10 laps down
  8. Joe Millikan (No. 72), 14 laps down
  9. James Hylton (No. 78), 14 laps down
  10. Ricky Rudd (No. 90), 15 laps down
  11. Richard Childress (No. 3), 16 laps down
  12. D.K. Ulrich (No. 40), 19 laps down
  13. Buddy Arrington (No. 67), 20 laps down
  14. Roger Hamby (No. 17), 27 laps down
  15. Cecil Gordon (No. 24), 30 laps down
  16. Mike Potter (No. 76), 37 laps down
  17. Dave Marcis (No. 02), 38 laps down
  18. Tommy Gale (No. 64), 40 laps down
  19. Baxter Price (No. 45), 44 laps down
  20. Frank Warren (No. 79), 71 laps down
  21. Harry Gant (No. 47), Dropped out after 385 laps with blown engine
  22. Dick Brooks (No. 85), Dropped out after 366 laps due to a faulty water pump
  23. Ronnie Thomas (No. 25), Crashed out after 335 laps
  24. Cale Yarborough (No. 11), Crashed out after 216 laps
  25. Buddy Baker (No. 28), Crashed out after 211 laps
  26. J.D McDuffie (No. 70), Dropped out after 197 laps with rear end failure
  27. Dick May (No. 19), Dropped out after 141 laps with blown engine
  28. Jimmy Means (No. 52), Dropped out after 100 laps with blown engine
  29. Bobby Wawak (No. 74) Quit after 33 laps
  30. Ralph Jones (No. 98), had brake failure after 31 laps


Section reference:[2]

  • 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 raceEdit

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 j k l m "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. Archived from the original on 2011-08-17. Retrieved 2011-01-24. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  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