Petty rallies from far back on the final lap to win the Daytona 500, avoiding a
crash involving Yarborough and Donnie Allison, who had been running in the
lead. As Petty takes the checkered flag, Yarborough gets out of his car and
confronts Allison, then uses his helmet to hit Allison's brother Bobby, who had
also pulled over. The melee that ensues (above) will come to be known simply as
NASCAR goes Hollywood: Strike one. In his first movie role, country singer
Kenny Rogers (right) stars as driver Brewster Baker in the movie Six Pack. In
the film Brewster's flagging career is turned around by six car-crazy, orphaned
siblings who help him outwit criminals and cops before he wins the big
NASCAR goes Hollywood: Strike two. Stroker Ace premieres, starring Burt
Reynolds (right) as a driver whose car is sponsored by fried-chicken magnate
Clyde Torkle, played by Ned Beatty. Torkle forces Stroker to paint the slogan
FASTEST CHICKEN IN THE WEST! on the side of his car. Critic Roger Ebert notes,
"This provides most of the dramatic conflict in the movie."
Petty wins for the 200th and final time, taking the checkered flag at Daytona
in the Firecracker 400. His record has never been challenged.
With his victory in the Southern 500, Bill Elliott (below) clinches a $1
million bonus from R.J. Reynolds for winning three of the big four Winston Cup
On the same weekend that Elliott runs the fastest lap in NASCAR history
(212.809 mph, during the Winston 500 at Talladega), Bobby Allison flips his car
into the grandstand catch fence. Several spectators are hurt, and the race is
stopped for 21/2 hours.
On his way to a win in the All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Dale
Earnhardt makes his celebrated Pass in the Grass, skidding into the infield but
keeping control as he speeds past Elliott and back into the lead.
The Daytona 500 marks the debut of NASCAR-mandated carburetor-restrictor
plates, meant to limit engine power at superspeedway events. The race is won by
Bobby Allison, whose horrific wreck at Talladega 10 months earlier had spurred
officials to act.
NASCAR goes Hollywood: Strike three. Days of Thunder, the movie that made Tom
Cruise and Nicole Kidman (below) an item, fails to generate similar heat with
critics, who deride it as a rip-off of Top Gun--an earlier Cruise vehicle. It
doesn't help that the hero's name is Cole Trickle.
Petty (above) retires, after 35 years in NASCAR.