Three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, and one of the winningest drivers in the sport, Cale Yarborough has passed away at the age of 84.
A native of South Carolina, William Caleb “Cale” Yarborough grew up attending races at Darlington Raceway before lying about his age when he was 17 to compete in the 1957 Southern 500, at a time when the age limit to compete in NASCAR was 21.
Yarborough became known as a fiery competitor, and won three straight NASCAR Winston Cup championships between 1976-78. And he also managed to win 83 Cup Series races, tied for the sixth-most wins in the sport’s history and one of only seven drivers with more than 80 wins.
One of Yarborough’s most famous moments came during the 1979 Daytona 500, when he was racing for the lead with Donnie Allison when the two collided on the final lap. As their cars came to rest in the infield and Richard Petty went on to win the race, Yarborough and Allison began fighting on the backstretch – a moment that would forever become iconic in NASCAR history because it was the first ever race that was fully televised to a national audience.
After winning four Daytona 500s over his career, Yarborough retired in 1988, but became a team owner after he stepped out from behind the wheel. He ran Cale Yarborough Motorsports until 2000, fielding cars for names like Dale Jarrett, Dick Trickle, John Andretti and Jeremy Mayfield, before eventually selling the team. Yarborough was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011.
Yarborough was married to his wife, Betty Jo Thigpen, in 1961, and leaves behind three daughters. Earlier this year, his daughter Kelley revealed that the NASCAR legend was suffering from a rare genetic disorder for which there was cure, and he was later moved to hospice in his home state of South Carolina.
Tough news the past couple mornings, my thoughts are with the families of Gil de Ferran and Cale Yarborough. Two of the greatest racers to ever compete who were looked up to by so many. They will never be forgotten and their legends will live on forever.
Cale Yarborough was my childhood hero. What an honor to be tied with the legend for 83 Cup series wins. He was “the man” and the legacy of Cale Yarborough will forever live on. My deepest condolences to Cale’s family. pic.twitter.com/xcikjl2pu6
Thank you Cale Yarborough for everything you did for NASCAR. He was one of the greatest, and my favorite driver growing up. He was everything I wanted to be as a driver. He could win at any track, and was as tough as the come. Rest in Peace pic.twitter.com/sxPgopUJ90