Own Pontiac’s first stocker to win a modern NASCAR championship
Let’s say the Jeff Gordon Monte Carlo that rolled across the block at The Amelia was too much of a museum piece for you. Maybe you don’t need the provenance of NASCAR’s Wonder Boy in your retro stocker, and you’re looking for something with a little more grit.
Meet “Buckwheat.” This 1989 Pontiac Grand Prix stocker was campaigned by NASCAR driver Rusty Wallace on the way to his first—and only—Cup Series championship. Now, it can be a part of your collection.
The 1989 season was a tumultuous one for the sport and for Missouri-born Wallace, who was in his sixth year of Cup Series competition. Among the field of NASCAR stars, there was a changing of the guard: Hall-of-famers such as Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, and Buddy Baker were retiring from full-time competition, passing the torch to fresh-faced perennial contenders Dale Earnhardt, Mark Martin, and Rusty Wallace.
Wallace drove Buckwheat to a 15th place finish in the NASCAR season finale at Atlanta to claim the 1989 title over Earnhardt by a scant 12 points. (Earnhardt won the race, in which a one-car crash would cost part-time racer Grant Adcox his life.) Making Wallace’s championship win even more impressive, he beat the Intimidator while he and team owner Raymond Beadle—in another life, a well-regarded drag racer—sued one another over contract disputes.
Wallace’s title stands as Pontiac’s first championship in NASCAR’s modern era. After the tobacco-liveried Grand Prix brought Wallace and Beadle the ’89 championship, it was retired from NASCAR competition and campaigned in the Historic Stock Car Racing Series.
To prep the car for vintage racing, a fresh 358-cubic-inch V-8 was married to a Super T10 four-speed and shoved down the center of the Laughlin tube-frame chassis. Bilstein shocks, Wilwood brakes, and a rebuilt 4.30:1 rear differential round out the vintage prep. True to original form, the car still features a Kodiak paint scheme, Goodyear slicks, a full rollcage, and period gauges.
The current owner acquired the Pontiac stocker in 2009. Then, in 2018, the NASCAR Hall of Fame came calling, requesting to display the car in its Glory Road exhibit, a curved embankment in the museum’s entryway featuring select cars from the sport’s 75-year history.
Glory Road’s spectacle is practically worth the price of admission ($27 for adults, $20 for kids) and being selected for the display is quite an achievement. Perhaps adding to the honor is the fact that the particular collection of stock cars that included the Wallace Pontiac was hand-picked by NASCAR driver-celebrity Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the “Dale Jr.: Glory Road Champions” exhibit.
After Wallace won the championship in ’89 he joined forces with “The Captain” Roger Penske. While he racked up the wins aboard Miller beer-sponsored Pontiacs, then Fords, then Dodges, he could never quite duplicate a full season of success like he did in 1989.
For Wallace, the 1989 season stands as an early spike in a 22-year NASCAR Hall of Fame career. Over three decades later, the Buckwheat possesses plenty of significance without being so steeped in history it should be kept under glass. It’s rarer than the numerous fifth- and sixth-gen stockers available on Racing Junk yet more accessible than, say, a car driven by the Earnhardts or Gordon. How exactly does that influence the bidding? We’ll soon see.
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