690331 Atlanta Yarbrough AP
Yarborough wins Atlanta ATLANTA, Ga. (AP) Cale Yarborough beat off a tremendous challenge from last-place starter David Pearson yesterday to win the Atlanta 500 stock car race in a finish that dazzled a crowd of 85,000. PEARSON, who had forfeited his front-row starting position because he elected to change tire compounds, finished less than three seconds behind Yarborough, who won his third Atlanta 500 in a row. Yarborough, in a Mercury, and Pearson, in a Ford, thus made the debut of Ford's massive new 429-cubic inch racing engine a highly successful one. Paul Goldsmith finished third in a Dodge, Bobby Allison fourth in another Dodge, and Pete Hamilton was fifth in a Ford. In winning his first big race of the season after four speedway victories last year, Yarborough averaged 132.759 miles per hour during the mile and one-half Atlanta International Raceway. YARBOROUGH, an ex- farm boy from Timmonsville, S.C., won $21,025 for his ride of 3 hours, 46 minutes and 12 seconds. He led the race five times for 309 laps, but had to contend with Pearson during the final 100 miles as the two hooked up in a wheel-to-wheel battle that kept the standing-room-only crowd on its feet. Pearson, along with Ford's Swede Savage and Dodge's Buddy Baker and Bobby Isaac, gave up choice starting assignments before the race when they elected to switch tire compounds. NASCAR rules require the racing machine to start an event on the same tires used in official time trials. During the first 150 miles it was largely a high-speed battle among these four drivers, with the tail-enders turning laps at more than 155 mph trying to catch up. Baker, who had the fastest qualifying laps during the week — a record 158.730 miles per hour — started 39th in the 40-car field. BY THE 30TH lap he had charged into sixth place, and later moved as high as second before going out with gear problems after 111 laps. It took Pearson, who had won the front-row pole slot at 156.794 miles per hour only 55 laps to battle his way into the lead. He lost it to Yarborough five turns later but continued to threaten from his spot just behind (he leader.