Photo Credit: NASCAR

By Zane Miller

First round

(8) #3 Richard Childress v. (1) #11 Cale Yarborough

(7) #24 Cecil Gordon v. (2) #43 Richard Petty

(6) #90 Dick Brooks v. (3) #72 Benny Parsons

(5) #15 Buddy Baker v. (4) #88 Darrell Waltrip

As the first round opened once again at Darlington, Cale Yarborough secured a successful start over Richard Childress, finishing fifth to Childress’ eighth. Following suit would be Richard Petty, as he claimed the fourth spot ahead of Cecil Gordon in 19th, while Dick Brooks crashed out early on to hand the early advantage to Benny Parsons. Rounding out the race was the most competitive battle of the afternoon, as despite Darrell Waltrip leading 123 laps, he would come up short to Buddy Baker and his third-place finish. At the next event in Richmond, Petty made easy work of Gordon as he finished second to race winner Neil Bonnett, while Gordon ended up 26 laps down. Yarborough did the same to Childress, with the latter falling out with overheating issues just past the halfway mark. With a third-place finish, Parsons knocked Brooks out of title contention as well, leaving the Buddy Baker/Darrell Waltrip series as the lone undecided one going into Dover. The battle would be relatively competitive, as the pair remained inside the top-10 right down to the wire. In the end, though, it would be Waltrip finishing just one spot ahead of Baker to claim the series victory, giving himself a chance to avenge his loss in the finals two years earlier.


(4) #88 Darrell Waltrip v. (1) #11 Cale Yarborough

(3) #72 Benny Parsons v. (2) #43 Richard Petty

The second round took the four remaining competitors to Martinsville, where Yarborough again established himself as the man to beat by taking the race win, while Waltrip dropped out in the closing laps thanks to a rear end gear failure. Although Petty finished a respectable fourth, it wouldn’t be enough to keep Parsons at bay as he took the runner-up spot, just a few car lengths behind Yarborough.

With that, the drivers headed about two hours southwest to North Wilkesboro, where Waltrip kept his championship hopes afloat with a dominating performance on the way to the race win. Petty would not be so fortunate, as the three-time champ again came up short in heartbreaking fashion, crashing out just after the midway point of the race after leading nearly all of the first half. This meant that Parsons would have a chance at his first Cup Series title, though he would need to wait for Waltrip and Yarborough to duke it out at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

In the second round’s final race at Charlotte, where Parsons himself picked up the race win after leading exactly 250 laps, it would be Yarborough winning the race for second to earn the right to face Parsons in the finals, with Waltrip’s title fight coming to an end despite a fifth-place finish. With that, Yarborough now had a chance to make history by becoming the first driver to win the Cup Series championship four times.


(3) #72 Benny Parsons v. (1) #11 Cale Yarborough

As the series remained in North Carolina for the third straight race, with the opening round of the finals happening at Rockingham, Yarborough picked up right where he left off with a fourth-place run. Parsons, while finishing seventh, still lagged eight laps behind Yarborough to put himself in an early hole. In the penultimate event at Atlanta, however, Parsons secured an impressive third-place finish in spite of Yarborough’s fifth-place result. Although Yarborough was clearly on a roll with his 11th straight top-five finish, Parsons still had a chance to capture the title at Ontario Motor Speedway.

While Yarborough and Parsons each led four laps during the race, neither would take the race win as Bonnett scored his second checkered flag of the year. However, Yarborough remained on the lead lap throughout the event, eventually finishing third to make history as the series’ first four-time champ, while Parsons ended up three laps down in 12th.

Cale Yarborough’s stats for 1977 were nine wins, 25 top-fives and 27 top-10s as he won the real-life championship as well as in the head-to-head playoff format.

1977 Cup Series standings in real life: