1986 Champion Spark Plug 400

The 1986 Champion Spark Plug 400 was a NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing event that was held on August 17, 1986, at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan.

1986 Champion Spark Plug 400
Race details[1]
Race 19 of 29 in the 1986 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season
Layout of Michigan International Speedway
Layout of Michigan International Speedway
Date August 17, 1986 (1986-August-17)
Official name Champion Spark Plug 400
Location Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, Michigan
Course 2.000 mi (3.218 km)
Distance 200 laps, 400 mi (643 km)
Weather Very hot with temperatures of 84 °F (29 °C); wind speeds of 12 miles per hour (19 km/h)
Average speed 135.376 miles per hour (217.867 km/h)
Attendance 64,000[2]
Pole position
Driver Leo & Richard Jackson
Most laps led
Driver Bill Elliott Melling Racing
Laps 115
No. 43 Bill Elliott Melling Racing
Television in the United States
Network ESPN
Announcers Jack Arute, Jerry Punch

Michigan International Speedway has been a Ford dominated track starting in 1984, and a Mercury track before that from 1969-78. It was also a track that suited a smooth driver or a driver that could change his driving tactics for Michigan International Speedway.


Michigan International Speedway is a four-turn superspeedway that is 2 miles (3.2 km) long.[3] Opened in 1968, the track's turns are banked at eighteen degrees, while the 3,600-foot-long front stretch, the location of the finish line, is banked at twelve degrees.[3] The back stretch, has a five degree banking and is 2,242 feet long.[3]

Groundbreaking took place on September 28, 1967. Over 2.5 million cubic yards (1.9×10^6 m3) of dirt were moved to form the D-shaped oval. The track opened in 1968 with a total capacity of 25,000 seats. The track was originally built and owned by Lawrence H. LoPatin, a Detroit-area land developer who built the speedway at an estimated cost of $4–6 million.[4] Financing was arranged by Thomas W Itin. Its first race took place on Sunday, October 13, 1968, with the running of the USAC 250 mile Championship Car Race won by Ronnie Bucknum.

In 1972, Roger Penske purchased the speedway for an estimated $2 million. During Penske's ownership, the track was upgraded several times from the original capacity to 125,000 seating capacity.[4]

Race reportEdit

There were 41 drivers on the starting grid for this event. Gary Fedewa (uncle of later Busch Series driver Tim Fedewa), Dick Trickle, USAC veteran Cliff Hucul of Canada, Ronnie Thomas, Joe Booher, and Howard Mark failed to qualify for this race. In this 200-lap event, Buddy Baker deserved his last-place finish due to a problem with the rear end of his vehicle on lap 27. Various problems including engine troubles and crashes caused several drivers not to finish the race. All of the drivers in this racing event were born in the United States of America, and prior to the green flag the total number of Winston Cup wins among all 41 drivers equaled 672, and a total of 20 Winston Cups.[2]

Sixty-four thousand people witnessed a race lasting for almost three hours. Bill Elliott managed to defeat Tim Richmond by almost one and a half seconds. Benny Parsons earned the pole position for this racing event by driving up to 171.924 miles per hour (276.685 km/h) during qualifying. While the opening laps in the race saw four different drivers duel each other for the lead, only Bill Elliott and Darrell Waltrip would be able to fight for the first-place position on the closing laps. Michael Waltrip would become the lowest-finishing driver to finish the race; even though he only logged in 122 laps of actual racing. Greg Sacks was involved in an accident on lap 63 while Morgan Shepherd had a similar collision on lap 83. There was a two-car crash on lap 173 involving Kyle Petty and Jim Hull. The last accident of the race occurred on lap 187 involving Benny Parsons.[2]

From 1985 to 1988, Bill Elliott had the most dominant engine in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Mechanical know-how and technological achievements allowed Elliot to dominate in those three seasons instead of driving style or "finesse." The most dominant drivers in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series during the 1980s were Bill Elliott, Darrell Waltrip, Terry Labonte, Bobby Allison, and Dale Earnhardt.

The total prize purse for the contenders in this event was $345,585 ($806,050 in today's American dollars).[5] Winnings for each individual driver varied from $55,950 ($130,499 in today's American dollars) to a meager $1,185 ($2,764 in today's American dollars).[2]

Introductions and retirementsEdit

Benny Parsons would make his final pole position start here while David Pearson and Jim Hull would make their respective exits from the NASCAR Cup Series after this event was over.[6]

Pearson would go on to become "racing royalty" at Michigan International Speedway due to his incredible performances on that race track alone.[7] While starting an average of 8th place on all NASCAR races that took place on Michigan International Speedway, Pearson's average finish of 12th place would be accompanied by nine other MIS racing victories and twenty finishes in the "top ten.[8]"

Top ten finishersEdit

Pos[2] Grid No. Driver Manufacturer Laps Winnings Laps led Points Time/Status
1 3 9 Bill Elliott Ford 200 $55,950 125 185 2:57:28
2 2 25 Tim Richmond Chevrolet 200 $27,890 5 175 +1.34 seconds
3 4 11 Darrell Waltrip Chevrolet 200 $27,275 3 170 Lead lap under green flag
4 6 5 Geoffrey Bodine Chevrolet 200 $17,225 21 165 Lead lap under green flag
5 12 3 Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet 199 $18,750 34 160 +1 lap
6 7 27 Rusty Wallace Pontiac 199 $12,525 1 155 +1 lap
7 28 28 Cale Yarborough Ford 199 $6,815 0 146 +1 lap
8 5 33 Harry Gant Chevrolet 199 $14,815 0 142 +1 lap
9 9 66 Phil Parsons Oldsmobile 199 $5,700 0 138 +1 lap
10 15 21 David Pearson Chevrolet 199 $6,605 0 134 +1 lap

Standings after the raceEdit

Pos Driver Points[2] Differential
1   Dale Earnhardt 2910 0
2   Darrell Waltrip 2769 -141
3   Tim Richmond 2755 -155
4   Bobby Allison 2545 -365
5   Ricky Rudd 2539 -371
6   Bill Elliott 2532 -378
7   Rusty Wallace 2448 -462
8   Geoffrey Bodine 2337 -573
9   Kyle Petty 2277 -633
10   Bobby Hillin, Jr. 2267 -643


  1. ^ Weather information for the 1986 Champion Spark Plug 400 at The Old Farmers' Almanac
  2. ^ a b c d e f 1986 Champion Spark Plug 400 racing information at Racing Reference
  3. ^ a b c "Michigan International Speedway". CBS Sports. Retrieved 2013-06-11.
  4. ^ a b "Track History". Michigan International Speedway. Archived from the original on March 2, 2009.
  5. ^ 1986 Champion Spark Plug 400 racing information at Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet
  6. ^ 1986 Champion Spark Plug 400 racing information at Race Database
  7. ^ David Pearson was king of Michigan International Speedway Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine at Stock Car Racing
  8. ^ NASCAR Statistics for David Pearson Archived 2012-06-23 at the Wayback Machine at Driver Averages
Preceded by
1986 The Budweiser At The Glen
NASCAR Winston Cup Series Season
Succeeded by
1986 Busch 500