NASCAR Hall of Fame 2012 inductee Cale Yarborough had a number of firsts in his career: he was the first driver to win three consecutive Cup Series championships (1976 to 1978), the first NASCAR driver to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and the first driver to qualify for the Daytona 500 at a speed of over 200 mph. These are just a few of the reasons why Yarborough will join fellow 2012 inductees Darrell Waltrip, Glen Wood, Dale Inman and Richie Evans in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
William Caleb Yarborough was born March 27th, 1939 near Timmonsville, South Carolina. He played high school and semi-pro football in Columbia and was also a Golden Gloves boxer - a skill he showed off during the 1979 Daytona 500. He made his NASCAR debut in the 1957 Southern 500 at Darlington and raced periodically in the series throughout the rest of the 1950s and early 1960s; he won his first race in 1965 at Valdosta Speedway in Georgia.
From the mid-1960s to mid-1970s Yarborough drove for a number of teams, including the famed Wood Brothers, Bud Moore Engineering and Junior Johnson, and in 1966, 1967, 1971 and 1972 raced in the Indianapolis 500, with a top finish of 10th in 1972. He won his three Cup Series titles from 1976 to 1978 with Johnson, who had purchased Yarborough's team during the 1974 season.
Yarborough retired from driving in 1988, but stayed in the sport as a team owner through the 1999 season. As a driver, Yarborough amassed 83 wins and 319 top 10s in 560 races in a 31-year career; he currently ranks sixth on the all-time NASCAR winner's list. In addition to his three Cup Series titles, he was the International Race of Champions (IROC) champ in1984, and won four Daytona 500s in his career (1968, 1977, 1983 and 1984). He was named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers in 1998 and is a member of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame, the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, the Charlotte Motor Speedway Court of Legends and the Talladega Walk of Fame.
Yarborough may be best remembered for his 1979 Daytona 500 fight with Bobby and Donnie Allison. Donnie Allison and Yarborough wrecked on the final lap of the race, which was the first NASCAR 500-mile race broadcast in its entirety on television. That race is often looked as the start of the growth of NASCAR as a national sport.
Paula is a long-time auto racing fan who enjoys learning about the history of her favorite sport.