COUNTDOWN: TOP 5 DAYTONA 500 MOMENTS ANNOUNCED 'The Fight' in '79 leads off countdown, at No. 5 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 9, 2006) -- It is stock-car racing's signature event, a season-opener and season highlight packed into 500 exciting ...
COUNTDOWN: TOP 5 DAYTONA 500 MOMENTS ANNOUNCED
'The Fight' in '79 leads off countdown, at No. 5
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 9, 2006) -- It is stock-car racing's signature event, a season-opener and season highlight packed into 500 exciting miles each February.
The Daytona 500 spawns both memories and milestones, and as the countdown begins to the 48th annual Daytona 500 on Feb. 19 at Daytona International Speedway, another countdown begins today -- to the Best Five Daytona 500 Victories.
Since 1959, men have matched the moment at the 2.5-mile, high-banked track carved out of Central Florida sand by NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. High-speed drama is a February staple, and the Best Five Daytona 500 victories -- to be revealed each day, culminating with the top moment on Monday, Feb. 13 -- are vivid chapters in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series history.
"No other sport begins its season with its most prestigious event," said NASCAR Vice President for Corporate Communications Jim Hunter. "That alone guarantees excitement and anticipation, and our drivers have responded through the years with performances for the ages."
Best Daytona 500 Moment No. 5: The Fight ... With much of the East Coast immobilized by ice and snow, the 1979 Daytona 500 gained an immeasurable number of viewers on Sunday, Feb. 18. The first Daytona 500 carried live on network television, the event offered thrilling side-by-side racing against the backdrop of sparkling Florida sunshine.
As laps wound down, millions watched as Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison dueled to the finish. In their last-lap dash to a win, Yarborough and Allison wrecked each other on the backstretch entering Turn 3. Seven-time series champion Richard Petty swept past them to claim the win -- his 43rd career victory.
Then, it happened.
Furious with each other, Yarborough and Allison climbed from their damaged cars and exchanged words. They were soon joined by Donnie's brother Bobby and the argument escalated into a three-man tussle, on the grass infield, treating the day's spectators and untold others on television, to one of the sporting world's best-known fights. Grimy and sweating from several hours of racing, Allison and Yarborough unwittingly boosted national awareness for the sport, launching it on the first of what would be many popularity surges.
"Donnie and Cale are two of the toughest customers ever to take the wheel in NASCAR," Hunter said. "Both expected to win every time they raced, and the excitement of the finish that day, along with their expression of displeasure with each other, certainly is one February's all-time memories."