1980 World 600: Parsons' Only 600 Win

Benny Parsons Texas 1981

Benny Parsons always relished his trips to Victory Lane. (Photo: ISC Archives)

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Anytime a race is 100-miles longer than any other race, there’s always room for surprises, sub-plots and intrigue that might take more than one day to play out. The 1980 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway is a prime example.

Coming into the 14th race of 31 for NASCAR’s premiere series that year, the Wood Brothers had won the pole position for a string of 13 consecutive Cup races at Charlotte. Streaks don’t last forever and this would be time for someone else to take the top spot.

Cale Yarborough put Junior Johnson’s No. 11 Chevrolet on the pole position, ending the Woods’ stranglehold on the front row. Their best their driver, Neil Bonnett, could do in qualifying was post the 5th fastest lap. Bonnett would finish the day in the same 5th position.

Yarborough led the opening 13 laps of the race, and stayed among the leaders for much of the day before the next plot twist.

Point-leader Dale Earnhardt had a tire blow on his Rod Osterlund-owned Chevrolet on lap 276. The car spun, and it collected Yarborough, as well as future NASCAR Hall-Of-Famers David Pearson and Bobby Allison. All were effectively eliminated from any chance to win the race, but Allison was the only one of the four unable to continue.

At the front of the field was Darrell Waltrip’s DiGard Chevrolet, but “Ole’ D.W” would have to contend with another tough ex-champion. Benny Parsons was at the wheel of a Chevy owned by M. C. Anderson. Between them, they would dominate the second half of the race, swapping the lead six times in the final quarter, alone.

Parsons took the lead for the final time with just two laps remaining, and managed to get to the checkered flag a half-car length ahead of Waltrip.

“It’s nice to win, and a very thrilling experience to be part of a race that close” Parsons said after the finish. “Second place would have been very difficult to swallow. We got our first win of the year, and now it’s on to better things.”

It would mark the second and final time that Parsons would visit Victory Lane at Charlotte, and the only time in NASCAR’s longest race. It was also the third career Cup series win for Anderson, but the first time he was at the track when his driver won.

“This is worth the wait,” the Savannah, Ga., native said. “I can’t say enough about the team and Benny.”

Parsons won a total of five times for Anderson before being replaced by Cale Yarborough in 1981. Yarborough’s desire to run fewer races each year meshed perfectly with Anderson’s decision to run a limited schedule, so Yarborough departed Johnson’s operation at the end of the 1980 season. Together, they would win five races over the final two years of Anderson’s car owner career, although Anderson would never make another trip to Charlotte’s winner’s circle.

This week’s edition of MRN Flashback Friday turns its attention on that Memorial Day weekend, three decades ago. Barney Hall and Mike Joy lead the MRN Radio coverage team for the 1980 World 600 beginning at Noon (ET) Friday, exclusively on MotorRacingNetwork.com.

Click here to listen Friday

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