Thursday, August 25, 2016

August 25, 1974 - Michigan's Yankee 400

Michigan International Speedway joined NASCAR's Grand National schedule with two races in 1969. The second one, the Yankee 600, was scheduled for mid-August. From then until now, Michigan's second race has always been slotted for the back half of the month.

The 1974 Yankee 400, the 22nd race of the season, was no exception with its scheduled date of August 25, 1974.

Source: Motor Racing Programme Covers
Coming into Michigan, three drivers had won all but one of the first 21 races. Cale Yarborough and Richard Petty had each captured eight trophies, and David Pearson was victorious four times in only thirteen starts. King Richard was rolling too with three consecutive wins at Atlanta, Pocono and Talladega as the teams headed for Michigan.

Pearson in the Wood Brothers' #21 Mercury and Buddy Baker in Bud Moore's #15 blue-and-white Ford started on the front row.

Yarborough in Junior Johnson's Carling Beer Chevy and Petty in the famed STP Dodge made up the second row. Bobby Allison - the only winner of the season other than Petty, Pearson and Yarborough - qualified fifth in Roger Penske's Matador.

At the drop of the green, Baker hammered down, got the jump on Pearson, and led the first three laps. Pearson took the lead away from Baker on lap four and led for eight laps before Baker recaptured it for a couple more.

Middle Tennessee's independent driver David Sisco then got some prime time exposure by leading four laps. Sisco started 13th and led a total of 15 laps throughout the day on his way to a ninth place finish. The race ranked among the top performances by Sisco over his seven-year, 133-race Cup career. Sisco recently passed away on July 25, 2016, at the age of 79.

After Sisco's time out front for a few laps, the lead changed hands again. And again. And again. And again. Over the course of the 200-lap race, fans witnessed forty-four lead changes. Only three times did a leader bank a double-digit number of laps out front.

The lion's share of the laps were led by two of the big three in '74: Pearson and Yarborough. The duo took turns swapping the lead much of the day. By mid-race, the two of them were the only two to lead.

With about 35 laps to go, Pearson decided show time was over. He passed Yarborough yet again to take the lead and never relinquished it. And as the race neared its conclusion, Yarborough couldn't even hold second.

With 15 laps to go, Cale hit pit road for an unscheduled stop. Petty's Dodge Charger rallied past Cale's #11 Chevy to nab second despite the 43 leading only two laps during the day.

The race was the 52nd of 63 times that Petty and Pearson finished in the top two positions.



  1. AND... my racing hero, Ray Hendrick of Richmond scored a double modified win the same weekend at Pocono as seen on the cover of the National Speed Sport News you have posted!

  2. Pearson was awesome. Great story. I know it's 3 years old, but if anyone monitors this thread and knows how I could get in touch with John Betts I would love a print of the pic above of the #21 and #15 together. I've never seen a better pic of my two favorite '70s cup cars. Beautiful.