Cale Yarborough

March 27, 1939
Cale Yarborough
Born in Timmonsville, South Carolina, USA.
Yarborough was born to Julian and Annie Yarborough in the tiny, unincorporated community of Sardis near Timmonsville, South Carolina, the oldest of three sons. Julian was a tobacco farmer, cotton gin operator, and store owner who was killed in a private airplane crash when Cale was around ten years of age. Yarborough was a high school football star,  then played four years of semipro in Columbia, South Carolina and was offered a tryout with the Washington Redskins. He was also a Golden Gloves boxer.

He made his first attempt in the Southern 500 as a teenager by lying about his age, but he was caught and disqualified by NASCAR. In 1957, Yarborough made his debut as a driver at the Southern 500, driving the No. 30 Pontiac for Bob Weatherly, starting 44th and finishing 42nd after suffering hub problems. He ran for Weatherly two years later, and finished 27th.

In 1960, Yarborough ran one race, and had his first career top-fifteen, a fourteenth-place finish at Southern States Fairgrounds. He again ran one race in 1961, finishing 30th in the Southern 500 driving for Julian Buesink. In 1962, Yarborough ran eight races for Buesink, Don Harrison, and Wildcat Williams. He earned his first top-ten at the Daytona 500 Qualifying Race, when he finished tenth.

Yarborough started 1963 without a full-time ride, but soon signed on to drive the No. 19 Ford for Herman Beam. His best finish was fifth twice, at Myrtle Beach and Savannah Speedway, respectively. He began the next season driving for Beam, but soon left and finished the year with Holman Moody, finishing sixth at North Wilkesboro Speedway, winding up nineteenth in points. The next season, he drove for various owners before picking up his first career win at Valdosta Speedway driving the #06 Ford for Kenny Myler, rising to tenth in the final standings.

Yarborough drove for Banjo Matthews at the beginning of 1966. Despite two consecutive second-place finishes, he left the team early in the season and ended the year driving the No. 21 Ford for the Wood Brothers. He won two races in 1967 at the Atlanta 500 and the Firecracker 400 for the Wood Brothers, but dropped to 20th in standings because he only ran 17 races. Yarborough also ran the Indianapolis 500 in 1966 and 1967 driving Vollstedt-Fords.

After running the season-opening Middle Georgia 500 for Bud Moore Engineering, finishing 21st, Yarborough ran the rest of the 1968 season for the Wood Brothers,
winning his first Daytona 500 in a duel with Lee Roy Yarbrough, the Firecracker 400, which made him the second driver in history to sweep both Daytona events, and his first Southern 500 garnering a total of six wins that season. Running a limited schedule, he finished seventeenth in points. The next season, he won his third straight Atlanta 500 along with the first NASCAR race at Michigan International Speedway the Motor State 500 and six pole positions.

Yarborough continued to drive a limited schedule for the Wood Brothers in 1970, winning his second consecutive Michigan 400 and the American 500 for the first time along with one of the Daytona 125-mile qualifying races and four poles. At the end of the season, Yarborough was released after Ford withdrew factory support for NASCAR teams. He drove four races in 1971, posting one top-ten in Daytona in the No. 3 Ray Fox-owned Plymouth. He also ran in the Indianapolis 500, finishing 16th in a Gene White owned, Firestone sponsored Mongoose-Ford. The next season, Yarborough ran five NASCAR races, his best finish coming at Michigan driving for James Hylton. He ended the season with two consecutive top-tens driving for Hoss Ellington. He also ran his final Indianapolis 500 in a Bill Daniels sponsored Atlanta-Foyt, finishing 10th. Yarborough mostly focused on driving USAC races in 1971 and 1972. In 1973, Yarborough returned to NASCAR and ran every NASCAR Grand National race in a season for the first time in his career, driving the No. 11 Kar-Kare Chevrolet for Richard Howard. He won four races, including his second Southern 500, the National 500 and the Southeastern 500 at Bristol in which he led every lap, and had nineteen top-tens, finishing second in points.

In 1974, Yarborough won a career-high ten races, but lost the championship by nearly 600 points. Midway through the season, Yarborough's team was bought by Junior Johnson with Carling sponsorship. Yarborough swept both races at Riverside International Raceway, captured his fourth Atlanta 500, and his second consecutive Southern 500 and third overall. Despite his successful 1974 campaign, the team began 1975 without major sponsorship, and missed three races, before Holly Farms became the team's primary sponsor. He won three races, including sweeping the events at Rockingham, but dropped to ninth in the final standings.

The following season, Yarborough won nine races, including four in a row late in the season along with the Firecracker 400, in winning his first career Winston Cup Championship. He repeated his nine-win performance in 1977, a season in which he finished every race and did not finish outside of the top-five during the last eleven races of the season, earning him his second championship. Another highlight of the season was his second Daytona 500 victory, earning him a cover appearance on Sports Illustrated, the Second NASCAR driver so honored. He also scored two victories in IROC IV, finishing second in the standings. In 1978, his team switched to Oldsmobiles and received new sponsorship from 1st National City Travelers Checks. He matched his previous career high of 10 wins, including leading every lap of the Nashville 420, his fourth Southern 500 and first Winston 500 at Talladega, and won his third consecutive championship. In IROC V he captured one victory, finishing fourth in the standings.

Yarborough began the 1979 season with Busch Beer sponsorship and getting into a fight with Donnie and Bobby Allison after the Daytona 500, when Donnie and Yarborough wrecked while racing for the lead on the final lap.
This was the first NASCAR 500-mile race to be broadcast on live television in its entirety. The confrontation and the exciting race that led up to it are credited with starting the mass growth of NASCAR. Yarborough went on to finish fourth in the standings, winning four races, including the Coca-Cola 500 at Pocono Raceway and the National 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, one pole, and finishing third in the IROC VI standings.

Yarborough won a career-high and modern-era record fourteen poles in 1980, captured six races including sweeping the events at Rockingham, and scoring wins at Bristol, Michigan, Texas and Atlanta. Yarborough barely missed out on his fourth championship in five years, losing the championship to Dale Earnhardt by 19 points. At the end of the season, Yarborough announced he was leaving the Junior Johnson team and would run a part-time schedule for the rest of his career. He was replaced by Darrell Waltrip. Yarborough won 55 races while driving for Johnson from 1973–1980, compiling an amazing winning percentage of 26.57 percent.

Yarborough competed in 18 races in the 1981 season in the No. 27 Valvoline Buick for M.C. Anderson, winning his fourth Firecracker 400 and his fifth Coca-Cola 500 at Atlanta, finishing in the top-ten a total of ten times. Yarborough competed in 16 races in 1982, winning three, including his hometown Southern 500 for the fifth and final time. He also ran the 1981 24 Hours of Le Mans finishing 13 laps before a crash ended the team's efforts.

In 1983, Anderson closed his operation, and Yarborough moved to the No. 28 Hardee's Chevrolet owned by Harry Ranier, competing in 16 events. He won four races, including his third Daytona 500, his sixth Atlanta Coca-Cola 500, and swept both events at Michigan, along with three poles.

In 1984 he repeated by winning his fourth Daytona 500, becoming the second driver to score back-to-back wins, the Winston 500 at Talladega, a race that featured 75 lead changes, and the Van Scoy Diamond Mine 500, along with four poles. Yarborough also captured the IROC VIII championship. In 1985 after his team switched to a Ford, he won his first Talladega 500 and scored his final win in the Miller High Life 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He also finished eighth in the final standings of IROC IX.

In 1986, Yarborough won his final career pole at the Firecracker 400, and had five top-ten finishes. He scored a victory at Talladega during IROC X and finished third in the standings. In 1987, he left the Ranier-Lundy team and purchased Jack Beebe's Race Hill Farm team. Yarborough took the Hardee's sponsorship and began running the No. 29 Oldsmobile Delta 88 as an owner/driver, posting one win at the Pepsi 400. He ran his final season in 1988 in an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, entering ten races and posting two ninth-place finishes. He retired at the end of the year and closed his team in 2000.

Yarborough was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1993, the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1994, the Court of Legends at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1996 and was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.
In 2011, Yarborough was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. In March 2013, Yarborough was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame.

The Duke Boys Help Racing Legend Cale Yarborough Escape Boss Hogg!
Two episodes on the TV show The Dukes of Hazzard featured Cale playing himself: "The Dukes Meet Cale Yarborough" in 1979, and "Cale Yarborough comes to Hazzard" in 1984. He appeared in the 1983 Burt Reynolds movie Stroker Ace.

Yarborough has been married to Betty Jo Thigpen since 1961 and they have three daughters, Julie, Kelley, and B.J. He has owned Cale Yarborough Honda in Florence, South Carolina for over 25 years. He currently resides in Sardis, SC.

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