Waltrip beats Petty in last-lap thriller

On this day in 1979, in the Rebel 500 event at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, drivers Darrell Waltrip and Richard Petty swap the lead four times in a last-lap battle before Waltrip finally wins the race.

The race also featured a pit stop mishap in which driver David Pearson, following a miscommunication with his crew, drove away with only two of his four tires properly changed. Pearson’s car flipped over and had to be removed from the race. The embarrassing incident led to Pearson, who was a top driver, being released from his team, Wood Brothers.

At the time of his defeat by Waltrip at the Rebel 500, Richard Petty was a NASCAR legend. That same year, he won his seventh NASCAR championship, a record later duplicated by just one other driver, Dale Earnhardt (1951-2001). Petty, who was born on July 2, 1937, in Level Cross, North Carolina, is the son of driver Lee Petty (1914-2000), a three-time NASCAR champ who won the first Daytona 500 in 1959. Richard Petty began his own NASCAR career in 1958 and was a dominant competitor before retiring in the early 1990s. Nicknamed “The King,” Petty won a record 200 races in his career, including a record seven victories at the Daytona 500. Petty’s son Kyle (1960- ) also became a well-known NASCAR driver; his grandson Adam (1980-2000), NASCAR’s first fourth-generation driver, was killed in an accident during a practice session at New Hampshire International Speedway.

Darrell Waltrip, who was born on February 5, 1947, in Owensboro, Kentucky, began racing in NASCAR’s Winston Cup Series (now known as the Sprint Cup) in 1972. Aggressive and outspoken, Waltrip earned the nickname “Jaws.” He won the Winston Cup championship in 1981, 1982 and 1985 and claimed victory at the Daytona 500 in 1989. After retiring as a competitor, Waltrip became a race commentator. His younger brother Michael Waltrip (1963- ) is a two-time Daytona 500 winner.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!


WPA established by Congress

On April 8, 1935, Congress votes to approve the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a central part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” In November 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, Governor Roosevelt of New York was elected the 32nd president of the more

Kenyatta jailed for Mau Mau uprising

Jomo Kenyatta, leader of the Kenyan independence movement, is convicted by Kenya’s British rulers of leading the extremist Mau Mau in their violence against white settlers and the colonial government. An advocate of nonviolence and conservatism, he pleaded innocent in the highly more

Aaron sets new home run record

On this day in 1974, Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves hits his 715th career home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s legendary record of 714 homers. A crowd of 53,775 people, the largest in the history of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, was with Aaron that night to cheer when he hit a 4th more

Weyand reports to Congress

After a weeklong mission to South Vietnam, Gen. Frederick Weyand, U.S. Army Chief of Staff and former Vietnam commander, reports to Congress that South Vietnam cannot survive without additional military aid. Questioned again later by reporters who asked if South Vietnam could more

North Vietnamese forces open a third front

North Vietnamese 2nd Division troops drive out of Laos and Cambodia to open a third front of their offensive in the Central Highlands, attacking at Kontum and Pleiku in attempt to cut South Vietnam in two. If successful, this would give North Vietnam control of the northern half more

California road race kills five

On this day in 1916, at the Boulevard Race in Corona, California, an early racing car careens into a crowd of spectators, killing the driver and two others. At the time, racing events were still a relative rarity and the fatal accident helped encourage organizers to begin more

McCarthy publicly attacks Owen Lattimore

Senator Joseph McCarthy labels Professor Owen Lattimore “extremely dangerous so far as the American people are concerned” in a carefully worded public speech, but stops short of calling him a Soviet spy. The speech was yet another example of McCarthy’s ability to whip up damaging more