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An original 1986 Atlanta Invitational ballot.
PHOTO: James Oldham Collection
The Open, then known as the Atlanta Invitational, was the first new addition to “The Winston,” NASCAR’s all-star event, then in its second year. Ironically, it debuted at the only running of the All-Star Race to not be held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. As the Invitational’s name implies, it was run at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. What’s more, the race winner didn’t transfer into the main event – the Invitational would be separate 100-lap race held the same day.
It’s interesting to note the names on the list. The 1986 running of “The Winston” was specifically for winners from the 1985 season only. Thus, past champions like Richard Petty, David Pearson, Bobby Allison, and Benny Parsons (who helped broadcast ESPN’s coverage of “The Winston” that day) made the list. Joining them were Kyle Petty, Rusty Wallace, and Morgan Shepherd – drivers who would’ve been in the 1986 race under today’s rules since they won in the first part of the ’86 season. But all three were still on the list, joined by owner-drivers like Buddy Arrington, Jimmy Means, Dave Marcis, and J.D. McDuffie.
A push by McDuffie’s fan club got the #70 into the Invitational, which was no small accomplishment. The 12 eligible drivers who missed the cut were Mike Alexander, Eddie Bierschwale, Ron Bouchard, Clark Dwyer, Tommy Ellis, Lennie Pond, Bobby Wawak, “The Silver Fox” himself, David Pearson, current broadcaster Phil Parsons, short track veteran Ken Schrader, as well as 1986 race winners Rusty Wallace and Morgan Shepherd.
A busted valve knocked McDuffie out of the Invitational after 37 laps, leaving him next-to-last in the finishing order. Benny Parsons took the win. The following week, when the series resumed at Dover, McDuffie made his 600th career Cup Series start.
|McDuffie falls off the pace in the inaugural Atlanta|
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