Buddy Baker, shown here after winning the 1980 Daytona 500, won the inaugural Busch Clash in 1979. (NASCAR Photo)
Buddy Baker, shown here after winning the 1980 Daytona 500, won the inaugural Busch Clash in 1979. (NASCAR Photo)

LOOKING BACK: Buddy Baker Wins The First Busch Clash

With the first Busch Light Clash scheduled anywhere other than Daytona Int’l Speedway set for Feb. 6 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, we felt it would be appropriate to look back at the inaugural running of the event in 1979.

The first Busch Clash was a simple 50-mile (20-lap) sprint at Daytona Int’l Speedway, featuring nine drivers who had won poles the previous year. 

Buddy Baker won the race on the same day that he also won the pole for the Daytona 500 and Kyle Petty won the ARCA 200 at the 2.5-mile World Center of Racing.

Here’s the race report of the inaugural Clash as it appeared in the pages of National Speed Sport News.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Buddy Baker capped one of the greatest days of an illustrious stock car career Sunday by uncapping the $50,000 first-prize money for the Busch Clash of ’79.

Baker, who earlier in the day had won the pole for Sunday’s Daytona 500, nipped Darrell Waltrip by half a length in a race that was run at speeds timed up to 198 mph.

Sponsored by the Anheuser-Busch brewing, the Busch Clash paid $150,000 to the nine drivers participating, who bad gained eligibility by winning pole positions for 1978 NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National events. 

It was television taped for CBS showing Saturday.

But this one was strictly a two-car race from the first lap, when Baker and Waltrip took off in a two-car draft which left the rest of the pack about a quarter-lap behind at the end of the 50-mile event.

Feb141979
National Speed Sport News’ coverage of the inaugural Busch Clash in 1979.

Required to drive the same cars they had qualified for the 500, the drivers spared no strain on the equipment as they reeled off a dizzy winning average speed of 194.384 mph that was faster than Cale Yarborough’s previous one-lap track record of 194.015, which withstood all assaults for nine years until Baker, Donnie Allison and Yarborough eclipsed it earlier Sunday.

Waltrip was content to run in the menacing position just off of Baker’s back bumper most of the way, but he made a several challenges late in the race, taking over the lead going underneath Baker on the third turn on lap 15.

But Baker got him right back one turn later and had the engine power in his Spectra Oldsmobile to hold off another challenge by Waltrip going through the last two turns of the 20-lap event.

Waltrip got a nice consolation prize of $18,000 for finishing as runner-up in the Gatorade Oldsmobile. Yarborough, leading the second wave of four cars that ran together throughout the latter stages, won $14,000 for third in a photo-finish with the next three finishers.

Other finishers in order, with their winnings were Benny Parsons, fourth, Oldsmobile, $13,000; Bobby Allison, fifth, Ford Thunderbird, $12,000; David Pearson, sixth, Mercury, $11,500; Lennie Pond, seventh, Oldsmobile, $11,000; Neil Bonnett, eighth, Oldsmobile, $10,500; and J.D. McDuffie, ninth, Oldsmobile, $10,000.

All were running at the end except McDuffie , who dropped out near the three-quarter mark.

“Kyle has us wondering how long it will be before we need a fluffy chair to watch this race,” Baker said, referring to the third-generation Petty’s victory in the first race he ever ran, the ARCA 200 earlier in the day.

“It’s been a long day, but it’s certainly been a good day for me,” concluded Baker, who had failed to win a Grand National event in 1977 or ’78.

In fact, his drought had been so long he didn’’t even remember where to turn into victory lane after the race until he was directed.

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