Here at Atlanta Motor Speedway, thrilling finishes to races have become the norm, with some of the closest finishes in NASCAR history having happened at Atlanta. But when it came to the 1978 Dixie 500, the subject of this week's AMS Flashback, the outcome was decided off the track – not at the start/finish line.
So much went on at Atlanta on this day. There was a controversial finish, a race winner snapping a winless streak and it also marked the early years of a the careers of drivers that went on to enjoy great success in NASCAR later in their careers.
Atlanta has seen some of the most intense rivalries in racing in its history such as Gordon vs. Earnhardt and Petty vs. Pearson. On this day, it was the Allison and Petty families grappling for the win.
Buddy Baker dominated much of the race, leading 151 laps before exiting early with a blown engine. With him out of commission, it set the stage for a patented Atlanta finish, with Richard Petty edging Dave Marcis for the win. That's when things got interesting. Donnie Allison, driving the No. 1 Hawaiian Tropic Chevrolet, was directed to Victory Lane before Richard Petty was announced as winner after a review of scoring cards. But the outcome was still in doubt, as following a further review of scoring revealed Allison, not Petty was the race winner, a miscue pointed out by current NASCAR Chairman Brian France. As a result, Allison, not Petty was awarded the victory. It was his 10th career win and turned out to be the final one of his career.
Finishing fourth that day was Dale Earnhardt. Driving for Rod Osterlund for the first time, he posted his first career top five. He went on to drive for Osterlund the following year, claiming Rookie of the Year honors.
Also in the field that day were a trio of younger drivers – Ricky Rudd, Terry Labonte and Bill Elliott.
We can't wait to see all of our fans here on Labor Day 2011 when we add to our storied history at Atlanta Motor Speedway when he host three nights of NASCAR Night Racing!