1978 Virginia 500: It's All 'D.W.'

D.Waltrip

In 1978, Darrell Waltrip dominated an early-season stretch of short-track races with three straight wins on ovals less than a mile in length – including his victory at Martinsville Speedway. (Photo: ISC Archives)

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In 1978, Darrell Waltrip dominated an early-season stretch of short-track races with three straight wins on ovals less than a mile in length – including his victory April 23 at Martinsville Speedway.

"D.W." opened the month with a win at Bristol and followed that two weeks later with another trip to Victory Lane at North Wilkesboro Speedway. From there, Waltrip moved on to Martinsville – where he conquered the quaint half-mile with a lopsided win in the Virginia 500.

Waltrip passed Lennie Pond just before the halfway point of the race and led the final 278 laps, beating runner-up Neil Bonnett by three laps. Richard Petty, Dave Marcis and Buddy Arrington completed the top five.

Pond had started from the pole and led 57 laps before yielding to Waltrip, who qualified third and said he was laying back in the early going.

"I wasn’t going to race anybody in the first hundred laps," Waltrip said. "It was important to save my brakes. When I wanted to go racing, there was nobody to race with."

Waltrip won a total of six races during the 1978 season, finishing third in the championship standings behind Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to Martinsville, Va., this week for Sunday’s STP 500.

Visit MRN.com on Thursday at 1 p.m. (ET) to hear the complete broadcast of the 1978 Virginia 500 from Martinsville Speedway, anchored by Ken Squier. Motor Racing Network – "The Voice of NASCAR" – features a classic race each week on "Throwback Thursday" only at MRN.com.

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