September 21, 1980
Holly Farms 400

Just a year after a new asphalt surface was put on the track, it was starting to disintegrate and come apart. The surface was put down in July of 1979. There were tire tests in August and races at speeds never seen before at NWS in September and October of 1979. The asphalt never had a chance to “cure” as they say, and simply started to fall apart. Some drivers and owners asked for postponement of the race until improvements could be made. Some even lobbied for a complete cancellation. A hurried application of sealer was put down, a quick test session was held, followed by discussions with officials and contestants. It was determined that the race would take place.

As a result of the new sealer, the track became very slick. Qualifying times dropped considerably. Cale Yarborough took the pole with a two day average of 20.090sec/111.996mph—3 tenths of a second and 2mph slower than the speeds in the spring. The slick surface also made for some difficult racing. Spins and crashes, among other things brought out the caution 8 times for a record 113 laps. The race pace which usually is in the high 80 to mid 90mph range was just 75.510mph, the slowest pace since the fall race of 1960. It took 3 hours, 18 minutes, 39 seconds to complete, the longest race in NWS history.

Bobby Allison picked up his 4th and final victory at North Wilkesboro. He started on the outside pole with a time of 20.214sec/111.311mph. Allison led a race high 166 laps. Finishing 2nd half a second behind was Darrell Waltrip. DW started fifth (20.308sec/110.795mph) and led 131 laps in the race. Dave Marcis led 4 laps in route to a 3rd place finish. His two day qualifying average was 20.344sec/110.610mph, good for a sixth place starting spot. Harry Gant and Dale Earnhardt were the first cars to finish one lap down. Gant started 7th and Earnhardt came from the 8th spot.

30 cars were in the starting lineup and 21 were running at the finish. Pole sitter Cale Yarborough led 54 laps and finished 10th. Fans also saw Lennie Pond out front for 45 laps. Pond lost an engine after 91 laps and finished 28th. Bobby Wawak gained 17 spots in the race, the most positions gained throughout the day. He started 28th and finished 11th.

Following the Wilkesboro race, Dale Earnhardt held a 90 point lead over Cale Yarborough in the season points standings. Earnhardt would build on that lead with victiories in the following two races. Yarborough finished ahead of him in the remaing three, but fell 19 points short at the end of the season—no chase format/no playoffs needed in another close battle.

One of the coolest names in racing, Mississippi native Lake Speed, running for Rookie of the Year, saw his first Cup action at North Wilkesboro. He finished 15th. And yes, that’s his real name—Lake Chambers Speed.

On the flip side, it would be the final NWS race for Cale Yarborough. He would continue running part time for several more years, mainly on high speed tracks. Yarborough made 24 starts in NASCAR’s top series at the track. This race was his only start from the pole. He recorded 5 wins, 14 top fives and 19 top tens at NWS. Yarborough at one point had an amazing streak of 8 races in which he had four wins and four 2nd place finishes. Put him toward the top of the list of one of the most successful drivers at the track.

One of the many laps run under caution. The gap between the two press boxes near the start/finish line will soon be filled by yet another suite providing a great view.

Two Months Later

Once again, Jack Combs is seen overseeing the repaving of the track. The repaving took place in November of 1980 and the new surface had the ability to cure during the winter months. Any routine testing that may have normally taken place every spring prior to the first event did not take place in 1981 in order for the track to completely cure.


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