The Daytona 500 is quickly approaching with the 57th installment of the race coming up Sunday at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. So, is it ironic that much of the U.S. is blanketed by snow and/or ice?
The reason I bring up irony is to introduce the first “Throwback Thursday” I’ve written here in this space in awhile. This “Throwback Thursday” goes back to 1979. Some of you may remember it well, some may have been around but too were too young to remember, and others reading this probably remember it well. Remember what? Remember the 1979 Daytona 500, that’s what.
I turned the ripe old age of four in 1979, but that wasn’t until December of that year. I was a three-year-old on Feb. 18, 1979, Daytona 500 race day. Needless to say, I don’t remember the race, but I’ve heard the stories — stories of the Northeastern and Midwestern U.S. being under snow and the big story, that of the fight between Team Allison (Donnie and Bobby) and Cale Yarborough. Oh, and by the way, Richard Petty claimed his sixth Daytona 500 victory that day.
That race was the first Daytona 500 that received live flag-to-flag coverage on national television. Actually, it was the first 500-mile race of any kind to receive such coverage. Heck, up to that point, even the broadcast of the Indianapolis 500 was edited down and shown on a delayed basis.
Back to the battle between the Allisons and Yarborough, though. What many may not realize is that the Allisons and Yarborough were involved in an incident early in the race. After the race ran under yellow for the first 15 laps, Donnie Allison spun on lap 32, and Bobby Allison and Yarborough were almost collected. All three ran through the muddy infield. Yarborough and Donnie Allison eventually unlapped themselves and battled fender to fender for the lead after lap 178 of the 200-lap race before wrecking together en route to the checkered flag.
The two drivers wound up in the infield again, but this time, the fight was on, especially after Bobby Allison stopped to assist. I’m sure you know the rest, or at least Bobby Allison’s story of him questioning Yarborough’s ancestry and then things getting physical with Yarborough hitting Allison’s fist with his nose. Or at least that’s how Allison tells it. And judging by some of the photos, including the one accompanying this post (courtesy of NASCAR and used with permission), there may have been some ankle biting, I’m not sure.
Anyway, if you’re snowed or iced in this weekend, forget all about that and party like it’s 1979. And by that, I mean kick back, keep warm and enjoy the Daytona 500.
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