Nhof Parsons6 052516
Benny Parsons inside his L. G. DeWitt-owned Chevrolet at a NASCAR Cup race. Parsons finished in the top 10 in 21 of 28 races and won the Volunteer 500 at the Bristol (TN) Motor Speedway on his way to winning the NASCAR Cup championship.(NASCAR photo)

NASCAR In 1973 — The 75 Years Edition

Editor’s Note: NASCAR is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2023. SPEED SPORT was founded in 1934 and was already on its way to becoming America’s Motorsports Authority when NASCAR was formed. As a result, we will bring you Part 26 of a 75-part series on the history of NASCAR as told in the pages of National Speed Sport News and SPEED SPORT Magazine.

Eleven of 18 is a good streak for a major-league hitter and a solid half for an NFL quarterback, but for a NASCAR driver, 11 victories in 18 starts is a record-setting season.

In 1973, David Pearson set that standard.

Pearson began NASCAR’s Silver Anniversary season at the by dropping out of the season opener at Riverside (Calif.) Int’l Raceway and finishing 22nd in the Wood Brothers Racing Mercury. One month later, Pearson was preparing to qualify for the Daytona 500 when he was notified of his father’s death.

David Pearson 1973 Nascar
David Pearson is joined by Miss Atlanta International Raceway in victory lane after Pearson came home victorious in the Dixie 500 NASCAR Cup race, giving him a sweep of the two Cup races held at Atlanta during the year. (NASCAR photo)

After attending his dad’s funeral, Pearson qualified 20th and dropped out of the race after only 63 laps.

Pearson took a month off before qualifying for the Carolina 500 at North Carolina Motor Speedway. The No. 21 Purolator Mercury was unbeatable in qualifying and in the race. Pearson headed the 500-mile event for all but one mile, setting a NASCAR record for domination.

That started a streak of five victories in five starts for the Spartanburg, S.C., native.

The fifth straight triumph came in the coveted Winston 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. After avoiding a 19-car accident on the 10th lap, which sent Wendell Scott, to the hospital with serious injuries, Pearson earned the honors.

Despite Pearson’s pressure, heretofore-winless Benny Parsons earned the $10,000 prize from R. J. Reynolds for sitting atop the points after the first leg of the Winston Cup schedule. Parsons was solid, if not spectacular, all year as he compiled 15 top-five finishes.

Parsons’ one victory came in the July 8 Volunteer 500 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

Pearson Peaks Through Season

Meanwhile, the 38-year-old Pearson continued his best season ever with his 18th career superspeedway victory in Dover Downs lnt’l Speedway in Delaware. The 15-second victory over Yarborough tied him with Richard Petty for the most triumphs on tracks over one mile.

Pearson added a 19th career superspeedway crown three weeks later at Michigan Int’l Speedway. Pearson swapped the lead with Buddy Baker six times over the last 100 miles before earning his third consecutive victory at the two-mile track.

Following his ninth prize of the season in the Dixie 500, Pearson cited one main reason for his success.

“You’ve got to feel that your chances to win are equal or better than most of the others when you’re in the Wood Brothers’ car,” he said.

Pearson joined the esteemed Wood Brothers team in 1972 and won six races in 14 starts. Before 1973 was over, he established a single-season record 61.1 percent mark. The 77-time Winston Cup victor who was named the Martini and Rossi Driver of the Year, joined Petty as the only other NASCAR driver to surpass $1 million in career earnings.

There are no ties in racing and the winner takes the largest portion of the purse and the points, which is why Bobby Allison became so upset after he felt he was cheated out of a victory in the National 500.

1973 Bristol March Cale Yarborough
Driving his Junior Johnson Kar-Kare Chevy, Cale Yarborough blew away the field in the Southeastern 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 25, 1973. Yarborough started the race from the pole and led every one of the race’s 500 laps. (NASCAR photo)

The “Allison Deal”

Yarborough and Petty finished in front of third-place Allison in the Oct. 7 Charlotte race, but Allison contended both the Junior Johnson-built Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu and the Maurice Petty-constructed Dodge Charger carried engines over the NASCAR-mandated limit of 431 cubic inches.

Allison was talked out of issuing a pre-race protest by Chief Technical Inspector Bill Gazaway, but Allison demanded a thorough post-race check of the two cars because, “Even when I gave it everything, my car was six to eight lengths behind them.”

Yet after both cars passed a six-hour technical inspection, Allison was not convinced.

“I have been told by a NASCAR official who was in on the post-race inspection, that the smaller of the two engines measured 438 cubic inches,” he said. “And the other one was a whopper.”

Sources to National Speed Sport News concurred with Allison, reporting in the Oct. 17 issue a 437.6 c.i. engine in Petty’s No. 43 car and a 440 c.i. powerplant in Yarborough’s No. 11 car. These figures made Allison’s charge that he lost between $39,000 and $65 000 with bonuses for finishing third instead of first concrete, but, nevertheless, unrecognized by NASCAR.

Junior Johnson played down Allison’s charges with his quip: “If I ran a cheater engine it would be nothing less than 500 cubic inches. If I got caught, I’d want it to be worthwhile.”

Then the former Grand National driver, moonshine runner and inspiration for 1973’s Hollywood release, “The Last American Hero,” added, “Seven or eight inspectors can’t watch a couple hundred mechanics. There is and always has been cheating in racing, but cheating for a few cubic inches is ridiculous.”

Thus, the matter stood, but tougher pre-race inspection procedures were added for the 28th and final race of the season as what Johnson called “part of the Allison deal.”

Parsons Secures Title Over Yarborough

In the final race of the season at Rockingham, N.C., Parsons had to complete 308 of the 492-lap American 500 to secure the Winston Cup title. That task was made much more difficult after he was involved in a seven-car pileup on the 13th lap.

Parson’s L.G. Dewitt Trucking-owned Chevrolet remained behind the wall for 75 minutes as his crew pieced his red car back together using begged, borrowed and stolen parts from other teams. When the No. 72 car limped back onto the track, Parsons completed the 308 laps he needed for the title over Yarborough.

In NASCAR’s other divisions, Bob Dragon drove his Chevelle to 26 victories and the NASCAR North title.

Jack McCoy won the Grand National West title and Tiny Lund powered to three victories in the last three races to secure the Grand National East championship. Lennie Pond edged Darrell Waltrip to claim rookie-of-the-year honors.