William Caleb “Cale” Yarborough was an American businessman, farmer, rancher, and driver in the Winston Cup Series of NASCAR. He was born on March 27, 1939, and passed away on December 31, 2023.
With victories in 1976, 1977, and 1978, he is one of just two drivers in NASCAR history to have three straight championships. In addition to competing in IndyCar races, he was one of the best stock car drivers in the 1960s and 1980s. He became so famous that the Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II had a unique model named after him.
Cale Yarborough Death
The auto racing organization revealed on Sunday, 31 December 2023, that three-time NASCAR Cup winner and Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough, who was renowned for his grit, had passed away at the age of 84. The reason for death was not stated.
“Cale Yarborough was one of the toughest competitors NASCAR has ever seen,” NASCAR Chairman and CEO Jim France said on X, formerly known as Twitter. “His combination of talent, grit, and determination separated Cale from his peers, both on the track and in the record book.”
A statement from NASCAR Chairman and CEO Jim France on the passing of Cale Yarborough. pic.twitter.com/8Wiel4tbmV
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) December 31, 2023
In the middle of the 1970s, Yarborough was the dominant driver in NASCAR, becoming the first driver in the top division to win three titles in a row. Throughout his career, he finished second in the points chase three more times.
In his championship years of 1976–1978, he recorded 28 of his 83 career victories, and he currently shares sixth place in the all-time victory standings with seven-time NASCAR Cup winner Jimmie Johnson.
Richard Petty, a seven-time champion, expressed his sympathy for X and recalled their racing days together:
Richard Petty and The Petty Family extend their deepest condolences to the family of Cale Yarborough. pic.twitter.com/9sU2pJlNNQ
— Richard Petty (@therichardpetty) December 31, 2023
In addition, Yarborough’s legacy includes an event from the 1979 Daytona 500, which was the first 500-mile NASCAR race to be broadcast live nationwide on television.
Watching Yarborough and Donnie Allison battle it out for the lead in the final lap, which saw both drivers crash and then swing at each other on the infield grass, was a thrilling experience for the CBS viewers. Petty went on to win the race. When Bobbie, Allison’s brother, pulled over his race vehicle and got involved, the argument got more heated.
Yarborough has won five times in the Southern 500 at Darlington, South Carolina, and four times in the flagship event of NASCAR.
In 2012, Yarborough became a member of the third class to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
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During his racing career, he drove for a number of vehicle owners, including Hall of Famer Junior Johnson, with whom he enjoyed some of his greatest seasons. He took the opportunity to thank his family.
Yarborough proceeded to make jokes about the potential career totals he would have achieved if he had stayed with the team past the 1981 season in order to run a reduced schedule with different owners and spend more time with his family. Yarborough also made light of his one-win record as a race team owner in his eleven years in the business.
“If that’s what they say, I’ll have to agree with it, I guess,” he said to the Speed Network when asked if he agreed with the moniker of “NASCAR’s toughest driver” following his speech.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. paid his respects to X:
Sad news about the passing of Cale today. A legend behind the wheel for sure, but he had a personality, grit, and swagger that attracted fans around the world to him and to Nascar. He truly made the sport far better for being a part of it. My heart goes out to his family. pic.twitter.com/D8lFkCF8HL
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) December 31, 2023
“A legend behind the wheel for sure, but he had a personality, grit, and swagger that attracted fans around the world to him and NASCAR. He truly made the sport far better by being a part of it. My heart goes out to his family,” Earnhardt, who is currently a race team owner and announcer, added.
Following Ford’s brief withdrawal from NASCAR in 1970, Yarborough also competed in Indy car racing for a few years. In the 1972 Indianapolis 500, he finished tenth.