NASCAR Flashback: 1974 National 500, Could Pearson Sweep Charlotte?
By: Toby Christie – Senior Writer
This weekend Kurt Busch will try to do something that no driver in the history of NASCAR has ever done. He is attempting to complete the Charlotte Motor Speedway season three-peat. However David Pearson, who was elected into the NASCAR Hall Of Fame this week, very well could have accomplished that feat back in 1974, had the All-Star race existed back then.
In May of 1974, Pearson led 161 of the 400 laps to take his second career World 600 victory, which set up the possibility of a season sweep.
Pearson would start the 1974 National 500 from the pole, but he would have fierce competition to deal with throughout the entire race, as 11 of the 42 starters would take a turn in the lead, and there was an incredible 47 lead changes on the day.
On lap two there was a big crash that involved and eliminated among others Richard Childress, Marty Robbins and Buddy Baker who was driving for Bud Moore (2011 Hall Of Fame Inductee).
‘The Silver Fox’ (David Pearson) would lead the first 12 laps of the race, before a brash youngster named Darrell Waltrip worked his way to the lead. Waltrip would lead the next 17 laps, and would make a statement to the entire field that he was a man to be reckoned with on that day.
On lap 37 A.J. Foyt led his first lap of the race. Foyt would lead a total of 25 on the day, but his engine would come apart on lap 170, ending his shot at victory.
A slew of drivers would shuffle the lead around for the remainder of the race, with no clear-cut favorite to win the whole thing. Notable drivers who led for at least a circuit were Richard Petty, Earl Ross, Bobby Allison, Donnie Allison, and Cale Yarborough.
Yarborough’s motor expired with 128 laps remaining, which dashed his hopes at victory after leading 44 laps. Less than 30-laps later Earl Ross would join Yarborough out of the race, when he crashed out of the event.
The 1974 National 500 was the true definition of an attrition race, as just 16 cars were around to take the checkered flag.
The race would come down to a shootout between four legends of the sport; Donnie Allison, Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip and Pearson.
Allison led until 53 laps to go, when ‘The Silver Fox’ would sneak past. Pearson would lead the final 53 laps on the day, and would wind up beating Richard Petty to the finish line by 1.4 seconds. Pearson with his win became just the third driver to ever sweep Charlotte Motor Speedway, joining Fred Lorenzen (1965) and Bobby Allison (1971).
Richard Petty who finished second would go on to sweep Charlotte the very next season.
Darrell Waltrip would finish third and recorded his first ever lead-lap finish in his Sprint Cup Series career. Donnie Allison who led with just 53 laps to go came home fourth.
Donnie’s brother Bobby who was inducted into the Hall Of Fame this week, rounded out the top-five finishers, but he was one lap off the pace when the race was complete.
There were several other notable finishers in this race.
Dick Trickle would finish eighth in Dave Marcis’ No. 2 Dodge. Trickle would end up being the oldest Rookie Of The Year in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history when he would run the full schedule for the first time 15 years later in 1989.
Brad Keselowski’s uncle Ron Keselowski finished 16th in what turned out to be the last Sprint Cup Series start of his career. In 68 starts Ron Keselowski recorded two top-fives and 11 top-10s.
This was also the final race that legendary car owner Ray Fox ever fielded a car for. Fox of course built the car that Junior Johnson basically invented the art form of drafting. Fox also fielded cars for David Pearson in his rookie season (1961).
Fox’s iconic No. 3 car was driven in this race by Wally Dallenbach Sr., who finished 29th after the engine let go on lap 125.
This race was an instant classic, but due to the fact that NASCAR races were rarely televised at the time it has been lost over the years. In honor of Pearson’s Hall Of Fame Enshrinement we have dug this race from the archives.