1979 Daytona 500 singled out as most memorable NASCAR race — turned boxing match – Autoblog

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Bobby Allison holds race driver Cale Yarborough’s foot after Yarborough, proper, kicked him following the Daytona 500 on Feb. 18, 1979. (AP/Ric Feld)


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Take a experience via Daytona Worldwide Speedway’s important tunnel, and images of a number of the most celebrated occasions in monitor historical past line the partitions.

One can’t be missed.

It reveals Cale Yarborough, helmet in hand, able to unload on Bobby Allison and ignite a muddy, bloody slugfest in the 1979 Daytona 500 that turned the extremely anticipated first reside flag-to-flag broadcast of a race right into a spectacle that stamped NASCAR on the nationwide sports activities map.

Who have been these good ol’ boys on TV fighting instead of racing?

The seminal second legitimized the Daytona 500 in a flash — extra like in a punch — and immediately even conventional stick-and-ball followers have been buzzing over NASCAR and the brawl that modified all of it.

The fight was a viral clip earlier than such a time period was even a factor and it is stood for 44 years close to the highest of the quick record of most talked about, dissected and still-can’t-believe-it days over NASCAR’s first 74 years.

As a part of the celebration of NASCAR’s seventy fifth season, The Related Press interviewed 12 veteran contributors to the {industry} on subjects starting from the best drivers to key challenges forward.

With huge names, a throwdown and a nation of viewers, the 1979 Daytona 500 was the winner within the AP survey as probably the most memorable race for its position as maybe probably the most pivotal industry-changer in NASCAR historical past.

“Whereas there are dozens of potential honorable mentions, this one appears to be replayed in spotlight movies greater than every other, which helps it qualify as most memorable along with most pivotal,” mentioned longtime Motor Racing Community announcer Winston Kelly.

Among the many different races talked about have been Dale Earnhardt’s breakthrough 1998 Daytona 500 victory and Richard Petty’s two hundredth win in 1984 within the July Daytona race attended by President Ronald Reagan. Heck, Edsel Ford, long-time government on the firm that bears the title of his great-grandfather Henry Ford, could not slim it right down to only one.

“I might say that any race {that a} Ford Motor Co. product received is my most memorable race,” Ford mentioned.

All appropriate nominees. However the 1979 Daytona 500 race — it was Petty’s sixth win within the crown jewel race — was one thing particular. Greater than 15 million individuals watched the race and all its aftermath. It stood because the highest-rated NASCAR race till 2001.

The mayhem was triggered early within the race when Yarborough got here up on brother Bobby and Donnie Allison and tapped Bobby’s rear bumper, sending all three vehicles careening via a muddy infield. All three drivers recovered, and Yarborough and Donnie Allison finally battled for the lead earlier than spinning out.

Yarborough later mentioned Bobby Allison had slowed down to dam him, then claimed Donnie knocked him into the grass. Bobby Allison had stopped his automobile close to the crashed vehicles to see if Donnie wanted a experience again to the storage. Yarborough confronted him via his window.

“He ran towards me and began yelling at me,” Bobby informed the AP in 2019 for a Fortieth-anniversary remembrance. “After which he hit me within the face along with his helmet, which actually shocked me. I nonetheless had my seatbelts on. I had my helmet on, and that shielded me somewhat bit, however it lower my nostril and my lips.

“By then, blood was dripping in my lap. I’ve both received to get out of the automobile and deal with this or run from him the remainder of my life. So I received out of my automobile and he went to beating on my fists along with his nostril.”

Whereas Yarborough and Allison traded haymakers within the Florida solar, it was really a snowstorm that helped broaden the race’s publicity.

The Daytona 500 was broadcast reside in its entirety for the primary time, reaching markets that knew little, if something, about inventory automobile racing. There was a blizzard that forced a large portion of the country inside. Cities have been shut down, and TVs have been turned on.

Deb Williams, an AP panelist now in her fourth decade of racing protection, was pressed into service in her first yr writing for UPI. She watched the race on TV at her mother and father’ dwelling in North Carolina — snow blanketed the home outdoors — and later wrote the story from the Raleigh bureau about followers that had banded collectively to pay Donnie Allison’s $6,000 high-quality.

“There was simply a lot uncooked emotion of components that individuals noticed for the primary time,” mentioned Williams, who’s protecting her twenty ninth Daytona 500 this yr, for Autoweek.

And never for the final.


AP NASCAR at 75 voting panel: Edsel Ford, long-time Ford government; Tony Gibson, retired NASCAR crew chief; Jeff Gordon, four-time NASCAR champion; Denny Hamlin, three-time Daytona 500 champion; Rick Hendrick, founding father of Hendrick Motorsports; Jimmie Johnson, seven-time NASCAR champion; Winston Kelley, government director of the NASCAR Corridor of Fame; Steve O’Donnell, Chief Working Officer for NASCAR; Richard Petty, NASCAR Corridor of Fame driver; Lyn St. James, one among 9 ladies who’ve certified for the Indianapolis 500; Deb Williams, award-winning NASCAR journalist; Eddie Wooden, co-owner of Wooden Brothers Racing.


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