Photo Credit: NASCAR Legends

By Zane Miller

First round

(8) #67 Buddy Arrington v. (1) #11 Cale Yarborough

(7) #54 Lennie Pond v. (2) #2 Dave Marcis

(6) #43 Richard Petty v. (3) #72 Benny Parsons

(5) #15 Bobby Allison v. (4) #88 Darrell Waltrip

In the first race of the opening round at Darlington, Cale Yarborough set off his quest for a fifth championship with a race win, while Lennie Pond took an early lead over Dave Marcis after Marcis crashed out one-third of the way through the event. Richard Petty captured a solid third-place finish to outlast Benny Parsons, while Darrell Waltrip kept Bobby Allison at bay with a runner-up finish. As the series shifted into Richmond, Waltrip took home the race win to end Allison’s chances at a second championship, while Yarborough also eliminated Buddy Arrington with a fourth-place finish. However, Parsons kept his hopes alive with a sixth-place finish, with Marcis following suit by taking the ninth spot. In the first-round finale at Dover, however, Pond bounced back with a seventh-place finish, just out of reach of Marcis in eighth. Meanwhile, both Parsons and Petty suffered mechanical woes, but Parsons would be able to complete 42 more laps than Petty before his engine expired to advance to the semifinal.


(7) #54 Lennie Pond v. (1) #11 Cale Yarborough

(4) #88 Darrell Waltrip v. (3) #72 Benny Parsons

With the new round kicking off at Martinsville, Yarborough wasted no time in making his presence felt as he led 372 of the 500 laps to capture the race win and take an early lead over Pond, who still posted a respectable fifth-place effort. Meanwhile, Waltrip and Parsons were locked in an intense battle all afternoon, though it would be Waltrip coming out on top with a runner-up finish, while Parsons settled for third. The next week at North Wilkesboro again saw all four drivers put their best foot forward, starting with Yarborough going back-to-back to bring Pond’s Cinderella run to an end as Pond came home in seventh. Waltrip was the class of the field as he led all but 19 laps, but would have to settle for second for the second week in a row. This was more than fine for Waltrip, who locked up his spot in the finals as Parsons finished five laps down in sixth.


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

With the playoff battle skipping over the race at Charlotte due to both series ending in a sweep, the final round got underway at Rockingham. Once again, Yarborough torched the field with 376 of the event’s 492 laps being led by the 11 machine on the way to victory. A valiant effort from Waltrip brought him home in third, but he would have to do better at Atlanta to keep his season alive. Unfortunately for Waltrip, his title hopes would indeed come to a premature end in the Peach State, going several laps down early before crashing out near the end of the race. From there, Yarborough cruised to an eighth-place finish to clinch his fifth Cup Series championship, further solidifying his legacy as the greatest driver in series history to that point.

Cale Yarborough’s stats for 1978 were an astonishing 10 wins, 23 top-fives and 24 top-10s as he won the real-life championship as well as in the head-to-head playoff format.

1978 Cup Series standings in real life: