Photo Credit: Getty Images

By Zane Miller

First round

(8) #70 JD McDuffie v. (1) #88 Darrell Waltrip

(7) #3 Richard Childress v. (2) #43 Richard Petty

(6) #72 Joe Millikan v. (3) #11 Cale Yarborough

(5) #27 Benny Parsons v. (4) #15 Bobby Allison

In the postseason-opening Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, Darrell Waltrip took the win over JD McDuffie with an 11th-place result, while Richard Childress suffered an engine failure to give Richard Petty the first victory of the series. Joe Millikan took an upset win over five-time champion Cale Yarborough with a 15th-place finish, as Benny Parsons took fifth to beat out Bobby Allison in tenth. Waltrip eliminated McDuffie in the next race at Richmond thanks to a runner-up finish, while Petty took care of Childress with a solid sixth-place result. Yarborough finished fifth to tie up his series with Millikan, as Allison grabbed the race win to force a third race against Parsons. At Dover for the first-round finale, Petty grabbed the race win to move on past Childress, with the battle between Yarborough and Millikan being far more intense as Yarborough held onto a third-place finish to Millikan’s fifth, keeping his opportunity at a sixth championship alive.


(4) #15 Bobby Allison v. (1) #88 Darrell Waltrip

(3) #11 Cale Yarborough v. (2) #43 Richard Petty

With the semifinal round getting underway at the paperclip of Martinsville Speedway, Petty would get the early edge over Yarborough by finishing behind Buddy Baker as one of only two cars still on the lead lap by race’s end, while Allison nabbed a fourth-place finish to take the lead over Waltrip. At Charlotte Motor Speedway, Allison took care of business with a second-place finish despite a valiant effort from Waltrip in third, thus keeping his hopes of a second championship afloat. Yarborough scored the race win after leading the final 56 laps, pushing the fight for the final championship spot into North Wilkesboro. However, despite leading several laps in the event, Yarborough’s title run came to an unceremonious end after crashing out with 132 laps to go. This paved the way for Petty to reach the finals for the fifth time in his career.


(4) #15 Bobby Allison v. (2) #43 Richard Petty

With the title battle commencing at Rockingham, Petty appeared determined to exorcize his playoff demons, winning the race after leading 139 laps, while Allison finished a disappointing 18th after crashing with roughly 75 laps to go. With his title hunt in serious jeopardy, Allison was in desperate need of an excellent run, which he would get at Atlanta as he came home in fourth, the last car on the lead lap. Petty had a good race himself, finishing sixth, but his chance at a first title since the playoff format began looked to be slipping through his fingers once again.

The series headed out west for the championship-deciding race at Ontario Motor Speedway, with both Petty and Allison looking strong throughout the entire event. Both drivers took turns at the front in the California sunshine, and were nearly inseparable from each other for the majority of the race. With just four laps to go, Petty sat in second place with Allison right behind in third. Knowing time was running out, Allison made his move in turn one, dipping to the low groove. Petty held his patented high line in an attempt to keep his momentum into turn two, but it wouldn’t be enough as Allison cleared him. Petty only continued to lose ground as Allison pulled away. Petty eventually came home fifth, with Allison finishing second to earn his second career Cup Series title and first since the 1972 season.

Bobby Allison’s stats for 1979 were five wins, 18 top-fives and 22 top-10s to finish third in the real-life standings, while Richard Petty took the real-life championship.

1979 Cup Series standings in real life: