Cale Yarborough scored his first career Daytona 500 win by taking the'68 classic behind th
Jeff Gordon's win in the 2005 Daytona 500, marking his sixth victory atthe famed 2.5-mile track, moved him into a tie for Third with BobbyAllison and David Pearson in career wins at Daytona InternationalSpeedway. It also gave him another crack at one of the longest-standingDaytona records when the Pepsi 400 NASCAR Nextel Cup race rolls off atthe World Center of Speed on Saturday, July 2.
Gordon, the defendingchampion of the Pepsi 400, will have a shot at equaling CaleYarborough's mark of three-straight wins at Daytona. To date, Yarboroughis the only driver in speedway history to hit the triple, which he didby winning the 1967 Firecracker 400, the 1968 Daytona 500, and the 1968Firecracker 400.
Several drivers, including Gordon, have had a shot atthe 37-year-old Daytona record only to fall short.
The first-ever masterof the Daytona high banks, Fireball Roberts, had an opportunity to winthree in a row but missed the mark in the 1963 Daytona 500. Roberts wonboth the 500 and the 400 in 1962, but he finished sixth behind JuniorJohnson in the 500 the following season.
LeeRoy Yarbrough won bothDaytona events in 1969, while Dale Jarrett won the 400 in 1999 and the500 in 2000. Michael Waltrip equaled Jarrett's 400/500 double in2002-2003, but all three drivers failed to make it three Daytona wins ina row.
Bobby Allison, like Gordon, had two chances at the triple, withAllison winning both 1982 Daytona Cup events as well as the 1987 PepsiFirecracker 400 and the 1988 Daytona 500.
Yarborough had shown the mettle to be a top driver when he climbed intothe No. 21 Wood Bro
In the 1983 Daytona 500,Allison missed the three-in-a-row mark after starting Thirty-Fifth andfinishing Ninth. Regrettably, the leader of the Alabama Gang never gotan opportunity to race for three-straight Daytona wins in 1988 after hesuffered career-ending injuries at Pocono in the 13th race of theseason.
Gordon's other attempt at the Daytona triple came in 1999 afterhe won the 1998 Pepsi 400 and the 1999 Daytona 500. In the 1999 Pepsi400, Gordon started Eleventh but finished Twenty-First, still on thelead lap behind the winner, Jarrett.
While all the drivers mentionedabove are certainly legends of the Daytona high-speed oval, Yarborough'slist of accomplishments place him at the top of the track's honor roll.
The Timmonsville, South Carolina, native made his Daytona debut in 1962and drove a '61 Ford from the Eighteenth starting position to aTenth-Place finish in the second of two 100-mile qualifying events.
The1962 Daytona 500 proved to be a total disappointment for Yarborough,however, as he made just four laps before electrical problems sidelinedhis Jim Buesink-owned mount. The Forty-Eighth and Last-Place finish inthe 500 gave little indication of things to come for Yarborough atDaytona.
Starting Eighth was no problem for Cale Yarborough as he roared to a winin the 1983 Dayton
Yarborough scored his first Daytona Top-10 finish--aNinth--driving the No. 10 Gary Weaver-owned '64 Ford in the 1965 Daytona500. A year later, Yarborough piloted Banjo Matthews' '66 Ford to aSecond-Place finish in the 500 behind winner Richard Petty.
The solidshowings at Daytona and elsewhere caught the eye of the superspeedwaymasters of the '60s and '70s--the Wood Brothers, Glen and Leonard. In1967, Yarborough steered their famed No. 21 Ford in a select 16-raceschedule of events, sat on the pole, and won at Atlanta before capturinghis first Daytona win--the Firecracker 400 on July 4.
Yarboroughaveraged 143.583 mph in an event that was slowed four times for 43 lapsof caution in the 160-lap race. Dick Hutcherson, Darrel Dieringer, DavidPearson, and Bobby Isaac completed the Top-5 finishers.
For the '68season, the Wood Brothers switched to the Mercury brand, and the resultsshowed immediately as Yarborough roared to the pole for the Daytona 500with an average speed of 189,222, well above the 180.831-mph mark set byCurtis Turner the year before.
Yarborough dominated the 1968 Daytona 500by leading 76 of the 200 laps. It was still close at the finish,however, as Yarborough's Mercury slipped under the checkered flag justone second in front of LeeRoy Yarbrough's Junior Johnson-preparedMercury.
Cale then left nothing to chance in scoring Daytona's first andonly three-race win streak when he bolted to a two-lap victory overYarbrough in the 1968 Firecracker 400. In a race that was just slowedtwo times totaling 14 caution laps, Yarborough ran away from the fieldby averaging 167.247 mph in earning the win. He also led 142 of the 160laps contested, still the record for a 400-mile event at Daytona.
Cale Yarborough was a short, bull of a man who liked to relax off theracetrack but was a t
Thevictory paid $15,400 and ran Yarborough's money total over thethree-straight Daytona wins to $78,375. By comparison, Gordon cashed for$1,497,450 in prize money alone for winning just this year's Daytona500. Yarborough would have a second shot at the Daytona triple when hewon the 1976 Firecracker 400 and the 1977 Daytona 500. Behind the wheelof Junior Johnson's No. 11 Holly Farms Chevy, Yarborough again dominatedthe 500, leading a staggering 137 of 200 laps to beat Benny Parsons,Buddy Baker, Coo Coo Marlin, and Dick Brooks to the finish.
In hissecond try for three Daytona wins in a row, Yarborough started Secondbut finished Twenty-Third in the 1977 Firecracker 400, 14 laps off thepace set by winner Richard Petty.
In all, Yarborough won eight times atDaytona, second only to Petty's 10 career victories at the track. In 57career Daytona starts, Yarborough scored 27 Top-10 finishes and led1,252 laps or 3,130 miles--the equivalent of more than six Daytona 500s.
The gritty driver also excelled at qualifying at Daytona, where he won12 poles, the most of any driver in the speedway's history. Eight ofthose top qualifying efforts came in time trials for the Firecracker400.
Gordon's shot at tying Yarborough's mark of winning three Daytonaevents in a row will take the green flag at 8 p.m. Eastern TimeSaturday, July 2. The event will be telecast live on NBC and broadcastworldwide as it happens on MRN Radio.