Bobby Allison holds race driver Cale Yarborough’s leg after Yarborough (right) kicks him after the Daytona 500 on February 18, 1979. (AP/Ric Feld)
Daytona Beach, FL — Drive through the main tunnel of the Daytona International Speedway, where walls are lined with photographs of some of the most famous events in track history.
Helmet in hand, it shows Cale Yarborough ready to unload and ignite Bobby Allison. A muddy and bloody battle in the 1979 Daytona 500 This turned the long-awaited first live flag-to-flag broadcast of the race into a spectacle that imprinted NASCAR on the national sports map.
Who were these good old boys on TV Fight instead of racing?
A breakthrough moment justified the Daytona 500 in an instant. Like Punch, a traditional stick-and-ball even his fans were suddenly talking about NASCAR and the brawl that changed everything.
The fight was a viral clip Before such a term existed, it stood near the top of a short list of the most talked about, analyzed and still incredible days in NASCAR’s first 74 years for 44 years.
As part of NASCAR’s 75th season celebration, The Associated Press interviewed 12 industry veterans on topics ranging from the biggest drivers to the key challenges ahead.
With big names, slowdowns and a nation of viewers, the 1979 Daytona 500 was named in an AP survey as perhaps the most memorable race in NASCAR history, serving as the most important industry game changer. Won.
Motor Racing Network’s longtime announcer Winston Kelly said, “There are many possible honorable mentions, but this one seems to be replayed in a highlight film more than any other. This helps qualify it as the most memorable in addition to being the most important.
Among other races mentioned were Dale Earnhardt’s landmark 1998 Daytona 500 win and Richard Petty’s 1984 200 at the July Daytona race attended by President Ronald Reagan. There was a second win.Edsel Ford, who spent many years on the board of directors in his great-grandfather Henry Ford’s eponymous company, couldn’t narrow it down to one.
“I think any race won by a Ford Motor Company product is my most memorable race,” Ford said.
All suitable candidates. But the 1979 Daytona 500 race (Petty’s sixth win in the Crown His Jewel race) was something special. Over 15 million people watched the race and its aftermath. It held the highest rating in NASCAR racing until 2001.
The mayhem was sparked early in the race when Yarborough approached brothers Bobby and Donny Allison and slammed Bobby’s rear bumper, causing all three cars to drive through the muddy infield. Yarborough and Donnie Allison eventually battled for the lead before spinning out.
Yarborough later stated that Bobby Allison slowed and blocked him, claiming that Donny hit him into the grass. Bobby Allison had parked his car near the crashed car to see if Donnie needed to go back to the garage. Yarborough confronted him through his window.
“He ran up to me and started yelling at me,” Bobby told the AP for the 40th anniversary in 2019. “Then he hit me in the face with his helmet.” I was really surprised, I was still wearing my seatbelt, I had my helmet on, so I had some protection, but I cut my nose and my lip.
“By then, blood was dripping down my knees. He started hitting my fist with his nose.”
Yarborough and Allison traded hay producers in the Florida sun, but it was actually a snowstorm that helped spread the race’s exposure.
The full Daytona 500 was broadcast live for the first time, reaching a market that knew little about stock car racing.there was A blizzard that drove much of the country inside. Cities were locked down, TVs were turned on.
AP panelist Deb Williams, who has been covering races for 40 years now, was forced into the position in her first year of writing for UPI. She watched the race on TV at her parents’ house in North Carolina, covered in snow outside, and later banded together from the Raleigh Bureau to pay her $6,000 fine for Donnie Allison. I wrote an article about fans.
Williams, who will be covering the 29th Daytona 500 this year, told Auto Week: “There was a lot of raw emotion in elements that people were seeing for the first time.”
And not last.
AP NASCAR at 75 voting panel: Longtime Ford executive Edsel Ford. Tony Gibson, his retired NASCAR crew chief. Four-time NASCAR Champion Jeff Gordon. Denny Hamlin, his three-time winner of the Daytona 500. Rick Hendrick, founder of Hendrick Motorsports. Jimmie Johnson, seven-time NASCAR champion. Winston Kelly, executive director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Steve O’Donnell, Chief Operating Officer of NASCAR. Richard Petty, NASCAR Hall of Fame driver. James Lincent, one of his nine women who qualified for the Indianapolis 500. Deb Williams, award-winning NASCAR journalist. Eddie Wood, co-owner of Wood Brothers Racing.