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

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 trip by way of Daytona Worldwide Speedway’s primary tunnel, and pictures of among 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 within 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 had been these good ol’ boys on TV combating as an alternative of racing?

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

The struggle 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 checklist 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 matters 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 function 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 another, which helps it qualify as most memorable along with most pivotal,” stated longtime Motor Racing Community announcer Winston Kelly.

Among the many different races talked about had been Dale Earnhardt’s breakthrough 1998 Daytona 500 victory and Richard Petty’s 2 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 all the way down to only one.

“I’d say that any race {that a} Ford Motor Co. product gained is my most memorable race,” Ford stated.

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 folks 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 by way of a muddy infield. All three drivers recovered, and Yarborough and Donnie Allison finally battled for the lead earlier than spinning out.

Yarborough later stated 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 trip again to the storage. Yarborough confronted him by way of his window.

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

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

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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 compelled a big portion of the nation inside. Cities had been shut down, and TVs had 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’ house in North Carolina — snow blanketed the home exterior — and later wrote the story from the Raleigh bureau about followers that had banded collectively to pay Donnie Allison’s $6,000 effective.

“There was simply a lot uncooked emotion of parts that individuals noticed for the primary time,” stated Williams, who’s overlaying 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 in every of 9 ladies who’ve certified for the Indianapolis 500; Deb Williams, award-winning NASCAR journalist; Eddie Wooden, co-owner of Wooden Brothers Racing.


An AP Photos weblog on Daytona’s historical past 

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