Skip to Content

NASCAR legend Cale Yarborough dies at 84

By Steve Almasy, CNN

(CNN) — Three-time NASCAR Cup champion Cale Yarborough, a Hall of Fame racer known for his toughness, has died at age 84, the auto racing body announced Sunday.

No cause of death was given.

“Cale Yarborough was one of the toughest competitors NASCAR has ever seen,” NASCAR Chairman and CEO Jim France said on X, formerly known as Twitter. “His combination of talent, grit and determination separated Cale from his peers, both on the track and in the record book.”

Yarborough dominated NASCAR in the mid-1970s, becoming the first driver to win three consecutive titles in its top division. Three other times in his career he was runner-up in the points chase.

He logged 28 of his 83 career wins in his championship years of 1976-1978 and is tied for sixth in all-time victories with seven-time NASCAR Cup champ Jimmie Johnson.

Seven-time champion Richard Petty sent his condolences on X and remembered their years racing each other.

“(Yarborough’s) rivalry and competitive spirit with The King will always be a renowned part of NASCAR History, showcasing their mutual respect and the intensity of their competition on the track,” Petty wrote.

Yarborough’s legacy also includes an incident in the 1979 Daytona 500, the first 500-mile NASCAR race covered in its entirety on national TV. The CBS audience watched Yarborough take on Donnie Allison in a last-lap battle for the lead that saw the cars crash then the drivers swing at each other on the infield grass, while Petty went on to win the race. The fight escalated when Allison’s brother, Bobbie, pulled over his race car and joined in.

Yarborough won NASCAR’s premier race four times and the Southern 500 at Darlington, South Carolina, five times.

Yarborough was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2012, a member of its third class. He took the time to thank his family and the car owners he drove for in his racing career, including Hall of Famer Junior Johnson, with whom he had his best seasons.

“Junior was looking for a driver, and I was looking for a ride. And boy, we hooked up and we had a good ride for sure,” Yarborough said in his induction speech. “Junior, can’t thank you enough, man. We had a good ride.”

Yarborough then joked about what his career totals could have been had he not left the team before the 1981 season to run a limited schedule with other owners and spend more time with his family.

“Had I stayed with Junior there’s no telling how many championships … Richard Petty you don’t know how many championships we might have won. You might not have even been in the picture,” he said, drawing a big laugh from the crowd and Petty, No. 1 all-time with 200 victories.

Yarborough also joked about his lack of success as a race team owner, with only one win in 11 years.

Asked after his speech whether he agreed with the title of NASCAR’s toughest driver, he told the Speed Network: “If that’s what they say, I’ll have to agree with it, I guess.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. paid his respects on X.

“A legend behind the wheel for sure, but he had a personality, grit, and swagger that attracted fans around the world to him and to Nascar. He truly made the sport far better for being a part of it. My heart goes out to his family,” Earnhardt, now a broadcaster and race team owner, wrote.

Yarborough also raced Indy cars for a few years after Ford stepped away temporarily from NASCAR in 1970 and he was 10th in the 1972 Indianapolis 500.

CNN’s Jacob Lev contributed to this report.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Sports

Jump to comments ↓

CNN Newssource


KRDO NewsChannel 13 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content