Blast From The Past: Talladega 1972-Feeling Bad About Doing Well

Kelly CrandallSenior Writer IMarch 30, 2009

No one in NASCAR is going to admit they cheated. No driver is going to get out of the car at the end of the day and tell the TV viewers that the reason he ran so strong was because he had a big engine.

No crew chief is going to tell the NASCAR inspectors that he added unapproved parts to his car before the race.

If teams elect to "enhance" their cars, they usually do it quietly. Drivers play ignorant and team members remain mute or become the "we made a mistake" salesmen.

But what if a driver did admit that something was wrong?

Don't think too long and hard fans, because it has happened before. But as fans, what you would do if a driver and maybe your favorite driver admitted to cheating?

On May 7, 1972, the Talladega Superspeedway was host of the Winston 500. Darrell Waltrip made his first career Sprint Cup Series start and David Pearson dominated the day, leading 59 of 188 laps en route to a 4.9 second victory over Bobby Issac.

But the story of the day came from the driver who would place in the 50th position.

Marty Robbins was a country and western singer who followed the NASCAR tour when he wasn't performing at the Grand Ole Opry. Robbins didn't have much money to compete with the series' best drivers, but he raced because he loved to do so.

He even said how he enjoyed running in the back of the pack with the drivers who were more like him in terms of racing and money.

Robbins entered the Talladega race in the No. 42 Dodge Charger with a qualifying speed of 177 mph. During the event, Robbins was running with the leaders and passing cars he didn't normally run with.

At one point he was clocked at 188 mph and by days end he came home in the 18th position. That's when Robbins smelled something fishy and amiss with things.

After climbing from his car, Robbins asked NASCAR inspector Bill Gazaway to take a close look at his car. And low and behold, Robbins' suspicions were confirmed: NASCAR found a slightly bigger carburetor than what was legal.

As a result, Robbins disqualified himself and would not accept any points or the $250 for being the highest finishing rookie in the race. NASCAR placed him in the 50th position and gave the freshman honors to Lee Roy Yarbrough.

In addition to the disqualification, Robbins was also fined by NASCAR for the illegal part.

The country star might go down in NASCAR history as the only driver to want inspectors to check his car, as well as the only one who would tell NASCAR to disqualify him. For some of his competitors that day, it didn't make any sense for the avid racer to relinquish an 18th place finish to go home with $745 for a 50th place finish.

But when pressed about his honesty, Robbins didn't see it that way.

"It was worth it," he said. "In fact, I'd paid that much money for a picture of [driver] Joe Frasson's face when I passed him."

One of Robbins' country hits was titled "Because It's Wrong," and since Robbins admitted his was wrong at Talladega, he gets the nod in this Blast From The Past.

Sources:, "Then Junior Said to Jeff...The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told" by David Poole and Jim McLaurin