Driver Cale Yarborough wins his fourth Daytona 500 on this day in 1984. In the history of the 200-lap, 500-mile race, which was first run at Florida’s Daytona International Speedway in 1959 and is considered one of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR)’s premiere events, only one driver topped Yarborough’s record—Richard Petty, who took home seven victories (1964, 1966, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1979, 1981).
Yarborough was born on March 27, 1940, in Timmonsville, South Carolina, and began racing cars as a teenager. In 1968, he won his first Daytona 500 as well as the first of his five Southern 500 victories at the Darlington Raceway (his other wins came in 1973, 1974, 1978 and 1982). Yarborough then went on to three consecutive Winston Cup (now known as the Sprint Cup) Series championships, in 1976, 1977 and 1978; he was the first driver to accomplish this feat. (Jimmie Johnson was the second driver to do so, with Sprint Cup victories in 2006, 2007 and 2008.) Yarborough collected his second Daytona 500 trophy in 1977.
At the 1979 Daytona 500, the first time the event was ever broadcast live on national TV from start to finish, Yarborough famously got into a post-race brawl with fellow drivers Donnie and Bobby Allison. Yarborough and Donnie Allison had been competing for the lead during the last lap of the race when they crashed. (Richard Petty won the event, ending his 45-race losing streak.) As it happened, a larger-than-anticipated audience saw Yarborough’s slugfest with the Allison brothers on TV, as a snowstorm in the Northeast had left millions of people housebound. The fight was credited with helping to put NASCAR on the map and transform it in the coming years from a regional Southern sport to a national phenomenon.
In 1983 and 1984, Yarborough won back-to-back victories at the Daytona 500, becoming just the second driver to do so, after Richard Petty’s consecutive wins in 1973 and 1974. At the 1984 Daytona 500, Yarborough became the first driver ever to qualify for the race with a speed of over 200 mph. He retired from racing at the end of the 1988 season with a career total of 83 Winston Cup wins and 70 pole positions.