Few remember who won the 1979 Daytona 500, but everyone remembers the fistfight at the end. As an appetizer for this weekend’s Daytona classic, here’s a short video with crash footage and interviews of the combatants. -photo courtesy NASCAR.com
In NASCAR lore, the 1979 Daytona 500 is usually cited as the race that introduced stock car racing to a national audience. The entire East Coast was snowed in that day, the story goes, with nothing to do but watch the live broadcast on CBS. The throngs tuned in to watch an auto race but a fistfight broke out. At the finish, Cale Yarborough and the Allison brothers, Donnie and Bobby, were scuffling in Turn 3 on national TV, and America was introduced to a colorful and exciting sport.
Of course, the real story of NASCAR’s success is a bit more complicated. In truth, it took another decade of cable television exposure and relentless promotion by R.J. Reynolds to pound NASCAR into the national consciousness. But the ’79 Daytona race is still a great story all the same.
As the video shows, there’s a backstory to the last-lap crash on the backstretch that generated the fisticuffs: Yarborough and the Allisons had tangled and spun earlier in the race. These angles and more are discussed by the three drivers, and there’s some great on-track footage as well. Enjoy the video.