Grand National Scene
By Robb Griggs
DAYTONA BEACH (Feb. 18) - During the final lap of the “Daytona 500,” race leaders Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough decided to have a 200 mph boxing match on the backstretch of the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway.
Several bumps, grinds, spins and crashes later, the two Oldsmobiles came to rest on the infield grass between turns three and four.
The speed slowed, but the action did not. Although the cars had stopped, the drivers continued moving, with Bobby Allison joining the fracas which turned into a nationally televised brawl between Grand National champion Yarborough and the Allison brothers.
Generally, opinions were split as to whether D. Allison bumped Cale first, or whether Yarborough just ran out of track, but each driver blamed the other for starting the backstraight crash.
Although Yarborough accused Bobby Allison of blocking the track for Donnie, films showed that he was not involved in the wreck. He did, however, drive around the track and stop in the third turn.
“I hit Bobby because he just smarted off,” said a very angry Yarborough. “I knocked the hell out of him.”
Yarborough continued by saying that the accident and following incident “was the worst thing I have ever seen in racing. Bobby waited on us so he could block me off. It was evident. The films will show it. I had him beat.
“I knew how to win the race. My left wheels were over in the dirt, and Donnie knocked me on over in the dirt further. He carried me onto the grass. I started spinning and Donnie started spinning.
“Donnie denied doing it,” added Yarborough. “Bobby pulled up over there, and I asked him why he did it. He bowed up and I swung at him.”
I hit Bobby because he just smarted off. I knocked the hell out of him.
“Naw, I didn’t block them. I wasn’t even close,” said Bobby. “I rode up there after the race was over to make sure they were both okay.”
B. Allison refused to comment any further and security police were used to keep reporters away from his garage area.
When told what Yarborough said of the wreck and the fight, Donnie A. became fighting mad.
“I don’t see any damned halo over his (Yarborough’s) head. He was going to win the race, or else. I already knew what he was going to do, and I had decided that if he was going to pass, it was gonna be on the outside.
“He did the same thing to me in Atlanta (November 1977), and I was prepared for anything. When he tried to pass me low, he went off the track. He spun and hit me. He wasn’t fixing to back off, and I wasn’t fixing to back off. I paid my dues just like he did.”
Donnie was asked if Bobby had blocked the track. “I don’t think Bobby slowed down, and he didn’t move anywhere. Bobby came up to see if we were all right (after the race).
“Here’s Cale Yarborough and he walks over and punches Bobby while he’s in his car. Pretty good sportsman, huh? He got out and called me a SOB and a rotten bastard.”
Most reports were that Donnie never struck a blow to Yarborough, but what if he had been able to reach Cale?
“I’da beat his brains out, and I think he knows that,” said Donnie A.
The Scene Vault Featured Stories bring racing history to life. Read the stories that made Scene the racing news leader for more then three decades.