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Excerpt from "The Modern Era", Vol IV of the "Forty Years of Stock Car Racing Series.....



Bonnett Wins Close Coke 500 at Pocono; Petty Suffers Broken Neck



LONG POND, PA (July 27, 1980) -- Neil Bonnett passed Buddy Baker with four laps to go and won the Coca-Cola 500 at Pocono International Raceway. The 124.395 mph triumph was the first for the Hueytown, AL driver since November 4, 1979 when he won at Atlanta.

Richard Petty was seriously injured when his car blew a tire, went out of control and bashed into the steel boiler plate retaining wall in the 'Tunnel Turn'. His Chevrolet lifted high in the air and crashed back onto the track. Chuck Bown tagged the wall trying to avoid Petty. Darrell Waltrip hit Bown on the rebound. Waltrip went over to check on Petty, then drove his battered car to the pits.

Petty told crew chief Dale Inman, "I think I broke my neck." The King was transported to the hospital where doctors kept him for two days. They released a statement that Petty had a "severely sprained neck."

Petty later said he indeed suffered a broken neck, and he still was able to start the race at Talladega the following week. Bonnett, driving the Wood Brothers Mercury, beat Buddy Baker's Ranier Racing Buick to the finish line by 0.6-seconds. Cale Yarborough was third in the Junior Johnson Chevrolet, Dale Ernhardt's Rod Osterlund Chevy was fourth and Harry Gant took fifth in Jack Beebe's Race Hill Farm Chevrolet.

Baker and Yarborough got into a tight battle for the runner-up slot in the final lap. The two touched quarter panels much of the way. Baker shook his fist at Yarborough -- then shook a smaller portion of his clinched fist. "If Baker would spend as much time driving his car as he does shaking his fist," said Yarborough,  "he wouldn't have anything to worry about."

Baker denied a feud was brewing. "I didn't give him a fist," noted Baker. "I just told him what position he was in. I don't know anyone in racing who has been in more feuds than Cale. I suppose that means everybody else is wrong and he is always right."

Bonnett tossed in his remark: "Buddy is the only driver who can shake both fists out the window and still drive a race car." Earnhardt increased his Winston Cup lead to 144 points over Petty. It is unclear how Petty's injury might affect his bid for a record eighth Winston Cup championship.

A crowd of 75,000 jammed the scenic Pocono Mountains to watch Bonnett claim his sixth career victory.




Richard Petty's nasty crash at Pocono in 1980