Cale Yarborough, who won three consecutive NASCAR Winston Cup Series championships and whose 83 victories tied him for sixth place on the winners’ list, died on Sunday. He was 84.
He had been battling a rare genetic disorder, his family told The Associated Press.
At the peak of his success, Yarborough won nine races in 1976, nine in 1977 and 10 in 1978, capturing the points championship each time. His feat wasn’t equaled until 2008, when Jimmie Johnson matched it. Yarborough was also the series championship runner-up in 1973 and 1974, and again in 1980.
He won the Daytona 500 four times (1968, 1977, 1983 and 1984), second only to Richard Petty’s seven victories.
But for all his achievements, Yarborough was remembered especially for a race he didn’t win, the Daytona 500 in February 1979, the first NASCAR event to be televised in its entirety to a national audience.
Yarborough and Donnie Allison, the brother of Bobby Allison, another of NASCAR’s greatest names, thumped each other several times on the backstretch while vying for the lead. Both Yarborough and Donnie Allison lost control of their cars near the finish, went spinning off the track and wound up unhurt in a grassy area while Richard Petty zoomed to victory.
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