Allison Ends Losing Skid With Daytona 500 Victory
DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Feb. 19) -- Bobby Allison grabbed the lead with 11 laps to go and outlasted Buddy Baker to win the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. The Hueytown, AL driver, manning Bud Moore Fords for 1978, ended his 67 race losing streak with the 'upset' triumph.
Fate dealt crushing blows to many of the favorites on the cool and overcast afternoon. Allison's $56,300 victory came in the wake of wrecks which ended the hopes of Richard Petty, David Pearson, Darrell Waltrip and A.J. Foyt -- and mechanical woes that swatted Buddy Baker, Cale Yarborough and Benny Parsons out of the hunt.
Ironically, the final duel to the checkered flag came between Allison and Baker who had crashed into each other in the 125-mile qualifier on Thursday. They both were forced to start near the rear of the field, and Allison came from 33rd to win the race.
Baker led for a total of 76 laps in his first drive for car owner M.C. Anderson. He was locked in a tight battle with Allison, who took over the Bud Moore ride which Baker had manned for nearly four years. Allison took the lead for good with 11 laps to go. Baker was holding onto second when the engine blew in his Oldsmobile with five laps to go. Baker coasted another lap and had to settle for seventh place. Allison took the checkered flag 33.2 seconds in front of Cale Yarborough. Benny Parsons was third, rookie Ron Hutcherson was fourth and Dick Brooks fifth.
Petty, Waltrip and Pearson broke away from the pack early. They were running nose-to-tail on lap 60 when a rear tire on Petty's Dodge Magnum blew, causing him to momentarily lose control. As Petty grabbed hold of his errant car, Waltrip and Pearson connected bumpers. All three cars slid off the track and into the inside retaining wall. Petty and Pearson were sidelined; Waltrip got back into action after extensive repairs and eventually finished 28th, 62 laps behind winner Allison.
Another blown tire sent Parsons spinning into the infield eight laps later. Foyt, running directly behind Parsons, hit his brakes but was drop-kicked by Lennie Pond, who wasn't able to slow down quick enough. Foyt's Buick darted off the track and began a wild series of turnovers. When it came to rest, the unconscious Houston, TX driver was taken to the track infirmary and then to a local hospital, where he was kept overnight.
Allison snapped out of a long drought with his popular victory. "I'm so tickled I can't see straight," said the 40 year-old veteran. "I've been coming here since I was a little boy and after 21 years of trying it's really a thrill to win this race."
For Baker, it was the second time in six years engine failure has put him out in the last 10 laps. "What have I got to do to win?" he asked out loud. "Man, I almost had a lap on the field. Then this. I felt like crying."
Bill Elliott of Dawsonville, GA, started ninth and finished eighth in an impressive run.
Allison averaged 159.730 mph for his 48th career win. A crowd of 140,000 was on hand.
NASCAR's official race report listed Allison with a first place prize of $44,300, although the media was told he earned $56,300 immediately after the race ended. "We know Bobby won more than that ($44,300)," said a NASCAR spokesman. "He may have even been eligible for more than the $56,300 that was announced to the press. But we have no way of knowing the precise amount."