Photo Credit: Speed Sport

By Zane Miller

First round

(8) #15 Buddy Baker v. (1) #11 Cale Yarborough

(7) #3 Richard Childress v. (2) #72 Benny Parsons

(6) #54 Lennie Pond v. (3) #43 Richard Petty

(5) #71 Dave Marcis v. (4) #2 Bobby Allison

As the 1976 postseason got underway at Darlington, Buddy Baker got off to a rough start in his series against Cale Yarborough after getting involved in a crash near the midway point of the event, while Richard Childress was also knocked out of contention early on to give Benny Parsons an early leg up. Meanwhile, Richard Petty put together a solid runner-up finish to beat out Lennie Pond, while Dave Marcis outlasted Bobby Allison with a fourth-place run at the Lady in Black. With the teams and drivers heading over to Richmond, Yarborough would make quick work of Baker as he led nearly half the laps on the way to a race win. Also advancing was Petty, as he finished in third, though Pond put up a fight with a sixth-place result. Parsons would not be so fortunate, as he crashed out shortly after the one-quarter mark to allow Childress to fight another day, with a runner-up finish from Allison also keeping himself alive for the first round’s final race at Dover. In said race, Childress would complete the upset over Parsons with a 20th-place finish, as Parsons struggled with an extended garage stay to finish over 100 laps down. Marcis would be done in by an engine failure in the closing laps, while Allison nabbed a fourth-place finish as his search for championship #2 continued.


(7) #3 Richard Childress v. (1) #11 Cale Yarborough

(4) #2 Bobby Allison v. (3) #43 Richard Petty

The semifinal’s first stop took the series back to the Old Dominion, or to Martinsville more specifically, where Yarborough dominated the day with 273 laps led on the way to a race win in the rain-shortened affair. Allison’s series versus Petty would get off to a rough start as he blew his engine in the early going, with Petty going on to finish fourth. Now heading into North Wilkesboro, Yarborough brought Childress’ underdog run to an unceremonious end as he again had a dominating performance, leading to another race win. Unfortunately, Allison’s season also came to an end as he suffered his second consecutive engine failure, as Petty went on to take third and set up a rematch of the 1973 and ‘74 championship finals, both of which resulting in Yarborough taking the title.


(3) #43 Richard Petty v. (1) #11 Cale Yarborough

The first race of the title battle took place at Rockingham, one of Petty’s best tracks over the course of his career. He would uphold that reputation on this day as well, leading the most laps as he cruised to the race win in spite of a solid fifth-place showing from Yarborough. However, Petty would be bitten by mechanical woes in the next race at Atlanta, dropping out after just 157 laps while Yarborough remained the model of consistency with a fourth-place finish. This meant another winner-take-all battle at Ontario Motor Speedway, though, just like the year before, many fans would go home disappointed. Although both drivers did, in fact, show up to the race, a marked improvement over the 1975 championship, the fight was effectively over just 127 laps in. For the second race in a row, Petty was let down by his own equipment, as his engine gave up the ghost despite leading 11 laps early on. This handed Yarborough the third championship of his career, though he would need to celebrate it from the garage as his clutch burned out shortly after Petty’s departure.

Cale Yarborough’s stats for 1976 were nine wins, 22 top-fives and 23 top-10s as he won the championship under the real-life standings as well as in the head-to-head playoff format.

1976 Cup Series standings in real life: