Looking Back to the Era of Our Throwback
The blue and yellow scheme adorning the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet is no stranger to victory lane at Darlington. In his last race subbing for an injured Dale Earnhardt, David Pearson captured the win in the 1979 Southern 500.
We’ve got the program from that very race, so let’s take a look back 37 years and see how times have changed…
The cover says it all, folks: The Granddaddy Of Stock Car Races. Then in its 30th running, the Southern 500 was already a tradition in ’79. The first in 1950 was the first 500 mile NASCAR race on a paved superspeedway. (right-click and 'view image' to enlarge)
One of the first pages contains the race info. While the event returned to its traditional Labor Day weekend slot on the calendar last year, it did not return to its traditional day. While the green flag now falls Sunday evening, for years the race was always run on Labor Day – Monday at noon. When Jimmie won the Southern 500 in 2012, he was awarded $319,786 – more than the whole field’s awards in 1979 ($250,000). In fact, last place in 2012 took home $72,139, which is more than Pearson’s winning share of $25,200 back in ’79.
Take a look at the souvenir list: most folks today wouldn’t know what a 33 1/3 RPM album is (a record, this one with “sounds of racing with Petty describing the action”). Other items you would have a hard time finding at today’s trackside superstore include a numerous books, a plethora of patches, and even a rain gauge! Of course there were hats and t-shirts, and while you may not be able to snag them for between $5.00 and $7.00, you can get your Jimmie Johnson throwback gear here!
As is customary today, the raceday starting lineup was inserted on a single sheet after qualifying the weekend of the race. Bobby Allison set a new track record with a lap of 154.881 MPH. Last year’s pole time set by Brad Keselowski was 178.874 MPH. There were 8 makes of cars entered, compared to just 3 today. Ed Negre was the only driver from California in the field. This weekend, nine entrants call California home, including Jimmie Johnson. One quarter of the starting field that day are NASCAR Hall of Famers, can you name all ten?
Also inserted in the program was a ticket order form for the next race at Darlington, the 1980 Rebel 500. You couldn’t spend more than $30 on a ticket. Consider yourself fortunate if you find a seat that cheap for the next race you go to.
Here’s a picture and a small story featuring the return of David Pearson (driving the blue and yellow No. 2 - the scheme on the No. 48 this weekend), which was uncertain after he and the Wood Brothers ended their long partnership in early 1979 after the Rebel 500 at Darlington.
Since it was Earnhardt who was supposed to drive the car, not Pearson, here’s a candid interview as well as an artist’s rendering of the then NASCAR rookie.
This weekend you will see Jimmie with throwback Gatorade gear, inspired by this era when Darrell Waltrip drove the Gatorade No. 88, seen in this advertisement.
Lowe’s even took out an ad, just weeks after their first race sponsorship of David Pearson in the No. 2 blue and yellow Osterlund Oldsmobile at Talladega. The advertisement shares a page with an article about Hall of Famers Bobby Allison and Bud Moore.
Valvoline keeps the Lowe’s No. 48 car running at peak performance, just like it did for one of Jimmie’s lifelong heroes, Cale Yarborough, when he won three straight NASCAR Championships from 1976 to 1978 (a feat only matched by one other driver: Jimmie Johnson).
As you can see, times have changed a lot. But while dollar amounts and speeds may be higher, many things remain the same. 37 years ago David Pearson drove a blue and yellow Chevrolet to victory lane in the Southern 500 on Labor Day weekend: Jimmie Johnson and Team Lowe’s Racing look to keep that the same.