Yarborough - NASCAR teleconference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Who would you list as the best drivers that you raced against? Who would be your No. 1 and No. 2? CALE YARBOROUGH: I couldn't put 'em in 1, 2, 3 or 4. They were all good race drivers back then. I was very blessed...

Continued from part 1

Q: Who would you list as the best drivers that you raced against? Who would be your No. 1 and No. 2?

CALE YARBOROUGH: I couldn't put 'em in 1, 2, 3 or 4. They were all good race drivers back then. I was very blessed to beat 'em a lot of times.

Q: We're coming up on the 30th anniversary of the 1979 Daytona 500. You won three championships going into that. Did what happened in 1979 at the Daytona 500 derail your efforts to go for a fourth championship?

CALE YARBOROUGH: No. I had decided that I was going to cut back on my schedule and spend more time with my family. That's what I did and have never regretted it. I would have loved to have won that fourth one, but I felt like I needed to spend more time with my family. That was more important than a fourth championship.

Q: 30 years later we all know who won that race, but who won the fight?

CALE YARBOROUGH: I did (laughter).

Q: Which of your three championships do you think was the toughest?

CALE YARBOROUGH: The first one is always the toughest, but all three of 'em were awful tough.

Q: Why is the first one always the toughest?

CALE YARBOROUGH: Well, the first time you win a race or a championship, getting that first one under your belt is always the toughest do, then the others come easier.

Q: What got easier the next year?

CALE YARBOROUGH: It didn't really get easier. I think it eased my mind some that I'd already won one and most likely the next one would be easier.

Q: Was it difficult heading into '78 to not think about the fact you could do something that no one had ever done? Did you think you were going for a historic third championship in '78?

CALE YARBOROUGH: Oh, yeah, yeah. That was something you thought about, something that nobody else had ever done. I say again, it sure lasted a long time.

Q: Can you go back to the 1984 race in Daytona that President Reagan was at and you pretty much ran neck and neck with Petty till the end? Can you describe what that race was like with him there and the hoopla surrounding that race?

CALE YARBOROUGH: I wasn't thinking about Reagan being there. It was a heck of a race. We had a good race going. The only thing I can say about that race is that was one I wish I had to run over again. I believe it would be a different outcome.

Q: Do you think drivers of the past had to be a lot more physical to win with the cars of the past, without power steering and such? Do you think today's best drivers need athletic ability?

CALE YARBOROUGH: Well, they all look like they're in pretty good shape and have a lot of athletic ability. I tell you, those was some tough racecars to drive back in our day. I would just love to be able to see how they could stand up to what we had to do back then.

Q: What was the toughest part about those cars compared to the cars that they race today?

CALE YARBOROUGH: Well, of course, we didn't have any power steering. We didn't have any air-conditioning.

(Connection with Cale lost.)

JIM HUNTER: From a Chase standpoint, when Cale won the championship in '76, he won five of the last 10 races. In '77 he won two of the last 10 races. In '78 he won four of the last 10 races. So it indicates that he might have been pretty strong even if the format had been different.

Also I might add, for those of you who don't know Cale, he was one of the most tenacious drivers NASCAR has ever had. He seemed to be able to take a car that wasn't handling very well and make the most of it, come out with a better finish than what the car might be capable of. That's a trait that both he and Jimmie Johnson seem to share, turning a potentially really poor day into a good day.

But Cale was strong. He was also a runner. Cale always stayed in shape. Of course, he's probably still in pretty doggone good shape. He works on his farm. He's very active. He was a one-time county commissioner.

CALE YARBOROUGH: I'm back, Jim.

JIM HUNTER: I was just telling them that you would take a bad car and make the most of it. That's something that you and Jimmie seem to have had in common.

CALE YARBOROUGH: Absolutely. I had some bad cars in my day, but I tried to make the best of it. We'd work on 'em during the race. Jimmie does a lot of that, too. Sometimes he's not right on it to begin with, but seems to work it out before the race is over.

JIM HUNTER: We'll turn it back to questions.

Q: Does it seem like it's been nearly 30 years since that 1979 Daytona finish. Do people ask you as much about that as anything else you've done in your career?

CALE YARBOROUGH: Yes, they do. They ask me all the time about it. And, no, it seems like yesterday almost. These 30 years have gone mighty fast.

Q: What do you tell them when they ask you about it?

CALE YARBOROUGH: I just tell them I was happy to be able to do it and happy it lasted as long as it did.

Q: What are your memorable moments in the sport and where does that Daytona '79 race compare with your memorable moments?

CALE YARBOROUGH: Well, it's sure something I will never forget because the fans won't let me forget it. That's all they want to talk about, still to this day.

But my most memorable moment was winning the 1968 Southern 500 in Darlington. That was considered my home racetrack. That was on the old racetrack before they remodeled it. I wouldn't take that win for all the rest of 'em put together almost.

Q: How did you celebrate afterwards?

CALE YARBOROUGH: I was so tired and so beat after that race, I don't even remember. I don't think we celebrated. I came home, went home and went to bed.

Q: Where do you live?

CALE YARBOROUGH: I live about eight miles from Timmonsville in little community called Sardis. I live on a 4000-acre plantation right in the middle of it. I'm living in heaven.

Q: How did you and Junior hook up? In '74 you were running for a different car owner and won six times, then switched over to Junior's team.

CALE YARBOROUGH: No, I switched over to Junior's team before '74 I think. I was running IndyCars at the time. I was ending up a two-year Indy contract. Bobby Allison was driving for Junior. He and Junior were going to separate, and Junior was looking for a driver, I was looking for a ride. We got together. We made a good combination.

The championships that I won with Junior were his first championships and, of course, mine. We just hit it off at the right time, the right place, did the right things.

Q: I know there was a special chemistry on the team. You and Junior saw eye-to-eye on what you needed to do to race, right?

CALE YARBOROUGH: No doubt about it. Junior liked my driving style and I'd always been a fan of Junior's. I liked his. They were pretty much the same. So that chemistry right there was good for us.

Q: When you got cut off, you were talking about the physical part of it, no power steering, air-conditioning. Seems like another difference between you and these guys is they're always in a jam. You were out there in hundred-degree heat. As these championship seasons wore on, did that physical grind play a part in it or did it get a little easier as the season went on physically?

CALE YARBOROUGH: No, it always got tougher as the season went on. But I think being physically fit played a big part in my whole career. Like Jim Hunter, I was an athlete all my life, knew that you had to stay physically fit to do the best job that you could. I think it played a big part in my career.

Q: You went off to college on a football scholarship. Seemed like you said there was a Friday night that came race time. Can you recount that moment in your life when you picked racing over football?

CALE YARBOROUGH: I had a scholarship to Clemson, a football scholarship, playing under Frank Howard. I was racing during the summer. I was just about to win the track championship. I went to Coach Howard and told him I needed to go home to race one more race, that I'd be through with it. He said, If you go back, pack your clothes, don't come back. You either go and race or play football. So I packed my clothes and left.

Of course, he kept calling. I told him, I said, You told me to pack my clothes, and that's what I did. I'm going to make racing my career. He says, Son, you'll starve to death. I said, Well, I may.

In the end, Frank Howard is one of my biggest fans. He used to love to go to races and stand in my pits. I'll never forget that he was at Talladega when I won a race there. He was in the winner's circle. He walked up to me and put his hands on my shoulder and he always called me boy. He said, Boy, I ain't never been wrong many times in my life, but I want you to know I was wrong this time.

Q: One of your favorite people, DW, was not very happy about the Chase. He doesn't think it's a very good format, doesn't think there's enough excitement. What do you think about the Chase format?

CALE YARBOROUGH: Well, I got mixed emotions about it really. I think it's created some interest in having kind of a playoff. But I'd rather it be the other way around.

Q: To have a situation like last year, Jeff Gordon dominated during the regular season, winds up having a 200 plus point lead wiped out after the 26th race, do you feel that's pretty unfair?

CALE YARBOROUGH: I feel the same way. One thing I agree with DW on.

Q: Jim Hunter talked about your tenacity. Did a lot of that come from your years in the boxing ring as well?

CALE YARBOROUGH: Yeah. Not only in the boxing ring, but sports in general. As I said before, I played all sports, worked hard at all of them. The boxing part of it was good for me. I'm glad I got into the Golden Gloves in my early years.

Q: Did that help you in '79? That famous picture that we all saw. You've told it a million times. Since we're coming up on the anniversary of that, can you pretty much take us through what led up to that, how that famous moment in broadcasting occurred.

CALE YARBOROUGH: I've told that story several million times. I'll do it again.

I had the fastest car and had it set up to where I could slingshot him on the last lap. That may have been a mistake on my part. I should maybe have gone on and passed him, go on and won the race handily. I was trying to make a show out of it. Unfortunately it really came out to be a show. It was one of the best things ever happened in NASCAR.

Here again, it was a very unfair fight. One Yarborough against two Allisons, that wasn't even fair. But that's the way it ended up. We were friends the next day and we've been friends ever since. In fact, Bobby came by and spent the afternoon with me not too long ago.

Q: Would you like to see that kind of emotion coming from the drivers today?

CALE YARBOROUGH: I would like to see a little more of that. I think the sport's great, but I think it would help it even some more.

JIM HUNTER: Cale, thank you for taking the time. I'm sure everybody appreciates it. So thank you. That will conclude our teleconference.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson , Bobby Allison , Frank Howard , Jim Hunter