All he had to do to clinch the championship was hang in there. But then he momentarily forgot what his daddy had taught him. When he came in for his final scheduled pit stop, he lost his damn composure. There's no other way to put it. First he slid into his own pit wall, scattering his crew. Then, while they were trying to change the right rear tire, he tore out of the pit with the car still up on the jack. A NASCAR inspector tried to stop him, fearing that the wheel the crew had begun to change would work itself loose and come spinning off under the stress of a 170-mph sprint to the finish line. The stunned crew ran around in circles. The tire they never got the chance to change was down to the cord. A black flag came out for Earnhardt, forcing him to come into the pits once more to put on the three lug nuts that had been left behind when he rushed out of the pits.
The guys in the crew held their breath as they looked toward the scoreboard to see just how many positions the mental lapse had lost. There came a collective sigh of relief when they saw that Earnhardt was fifth. Now they knew their driver had the championship, if by the skin of his teeth—and that they would win the Sears Craftsman pit crew championship, a title earned by a crew's car spending the least amount of time in the pits in 10 selected races during the season. The Earnhardt gang beat its closest rivals—which happened to be Yarborough's crew, commanded by Johnson—by five points.
Meanwhile, Yarborough had been passed by Parsons, who sped away to win by 6.3 seconds. Because Parsons will be replaced on the M.C. Anderson Chevrolet team by Yarborough next season and was thus out of a job the moment he crossed the finish line, it was a particularly satisfying victory. Neil Bonnett passed Yarborough on the last lap, pushing him back to third place.
Yarborough, who has decided to enter fewer races from now on, knew that this had been his last real chance for a fourth championship. After the race he closed his garage door behind him, so he could be alone with his disappointment.
Earnhardt, meanwhile, had got the message. "Let's go to Vegas," he said following the race. The luck that had been with him in California was still there when he got to Nevada. After he won $290 at blackjack, Earnhardt went at the slots. A few cranks later, three oranges came flipping into the windows and 100 silver dollars came clattering into the tray. At that moment Earnhardt looked very damn composed.