Daytona 50 Years
This was the golden age, an era graced by some of the most memorable stars and cars in NASCAR history and defined by some of the fiercest rivalries the sport has known. The King's reign continued -- Richard Petty won 89 races and five series titles during the decade -- but it wasn't easy. He tradedpaint weekly with such legends as Bobby Allison, Benny Parsons, David Pearson and Cale Yarborough, men who were stars in their own right and who beat him with remarkable regularity, especially Pearson. The second-winningest driver in NASCAR history, the Silver Fox is remembered fondly by fans for besting his nemesis at the wire of the 1976 Daytona 500, when a final-lap accident between the two drivers left Petty stuck in the infield while Pearson literally coasted to the win. Racing had never been more exciting.
And the stakes had certainly never been higher. In 1971, a year after Congress banned the advertising of cigarettes on television, tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds found a new way to continue its television presence by taking over sponsorship of the Grand National circuit, which it renamed the Winston Cup. Suddenly energized by RJR's Madison Avenue marketing strategies, as well as by an infusion of cash, NASCAR began to grow beyond its Southeastern roots. By 1979, when CBS went live from the Daytona 500 with flag-to-flag coverage (the first such broadcast in NASCAR's history), the sport could no longer be considered just a regional pastime. It had become a thoroughly American institution.