1968 looking back.fw

Yarborough Nips Yarbrough In Close Daytona 500 Finish

DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Feb. 25) -- Cale Yarborough squeezed past LeeRoy Yarbrough with four laps to go and held on to win the 10th annual Daytona 500 by one second. Yarborough's triumph, his third on a superspeedway, gave Ford Motor Co. a sweep of the first three spots in the classic at Daytona International Speedway.

Yarborough was running second behind Yarbrough after the 11th caution flag. When the green flag came out on lap 179, Cale was trapped in traffic and LeeRoy scooted to a healthy lead. With 10 laps to go, Cale was 3.2-seconds behind. Within five laps, he was on Lee-Roy's tailpipes and he made the all-important pass on lap 197. "I knew I could take him if the yellow didn't come out," said the 28 year-old Yarborough. "Our Mercury ran like a gem. Once I got by him, I knew he couldn't do any better than second place."

LeeRoy led six times for 62 laps, but had to settle for runner-up honors. Bobby Allison finished third with Al Unser fourth and David Pearson fifth.

The caution flag was waved a record 11 times for no less than 150 miles. The frequency of the caution flag caused two pace cars -- both Chevrolet Camaros -- to overheat. A third pace car had to be brought in to lead the single file formation.

Cale had to overcome a number of problems en route to the $47,250 victory. As early as the 14th lap, the Timmonsville, SC driver was in the pits with a skipping motor. Two laps later, he was back in the pits with ignition problems. Mechanic Leonard Wood corrected the problems, but not before Cale had lost a lap. Due to the many cautions, he was able to get back into the lead lap before the half way point.

Mario Andretti, defending champion, led for 17 laps but was knocked out in a wild crash with John Sears and Buddy Baker on lap 105. No injuries were reported. Since winning the Daytona 500 in 1967, Andretti has been involved in three straight crashes. Baker, upset at being taken out of the race, remarked in disgust, "That guy takes out one or two contenders every time he races down here. He just lost it. He had a chance to let up and correct it, but he kept standing on it. When he swung around directly in front of me, there was nothing I could do," said Baker.

A crowd of 94,800 watched Yarborough average 143.251 mph.

Veteran car builder Smokey Yunick entered a Chevrolet with Gordon Johncock listed as driver. However, the car ran into a roadblock at the inspection station. NASCAR officials combed the car exceptionally close and declared the car had to undergo extensive surgical work in order to obtain eligibility for the race.

Inspectors took the fuel tank from the car, drained it and measured its contents closely. Officials indicated the car's body had not fit the templates and that a peculiar joint was located in the front suspension. NASCAR gave Yunick a list of nine items to change on the car.

When handed the list, Yunick muttered, "Better make that 10". He hopped in the car -- without a gas tank --and drove off.

The 125-mile qualifying races were rained out on Friday. The day dawned dark, gray and wet. The weather broke for about 40 minutes, and Bill France wanted the drivers to buckle up and prepare to start racing. Most of the drivers refused to get in their cars. They said the track was still wet and in no condition to race on.

France drove his personal car into the garage area and immediately a crowd surrounded him. "Are there any of you guys who want to race?" France asked loudly. The only driver to raise his hand was rookie Dave Marcis. "Line up your cars and we'll get started. We'll pay the full purse and if the hot-shots don't want to run, they can go back to the garage area."

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