Tire Gamble Works; LeeRoy Whips Charlie in Daytona 500
DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Feb. 23) -- With the advantage of a soft compound tire he got on the final pit stop, LeeRoy Yarbrough ran down Charlie Glotzbach in the final lap and won the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.
Yarbrough, driving the Junior Johnson Ford, pitted for new tires on lap 181 of the 200 lap contest, and returned to the track 11 seconds behind the Glotzbach Dodge. Crew chief Herb Nab decided to place a soft compound tire on the left rear wheel -- affording better traction and more speed, but less durability. Glotzbach made his final pit stop on lap 186 and took two regular compound tires.
"The tires made the difference," said a jubilant Yarbrough. "It was the pit crew's decision and they deserve credit for this victory. I was thinking I might run second again (he wound up a close second in 1968), but I saw I was gaining on him. I knew the car had the power when I needed it."
Glotzbach finished a car length behind in second place. "He just beat me," said the Georgetown, IN driver. "There's no defense that I know of against the slingshot. I wasn't going to run him off in the grass or put him in the wall. I finished second. I could've finished last."
Donnie Allison came in third. A.J. Foyt was fourth and pole sitter Buddy Baker was fifth.
Accidents took out a number of contestants, including defending champion Cale Yarborough, who clobbered the fourth turn wall on lap 103 after a tire failure. Yarborough was badly shaken up but suffered nothing worse than a broken nose.
Bobby Unser parked the Smokey Yunick Ford against the wall after a blown tire. Paul Goldsmith, Swede Savage and Bobby Isaac also wrecked their factory cars.
Isaac trapped in behind a pack of slow cars, was hit by Richard Petty's Ford. "I just ran up on them," admitted Petty, who experienced handling problems and a batch of blistered tires in his first big track start in a Ford. "I guess I could have prevented it, but I didn't. It was a stupid mistake."
Isaac did not point the finger at Petty. "It wasn't his fault," said Isaac. "What the problem was those slower cars. That 8 car (Vic Elford) and the 03 car (Richard Brickhouse) were all over the track. Some people aren't watching their mirrors.
Yarbrough won $38,950 for taking his third superspeedway win. Things looked bleak four days earlier when the engine blew in a practice run, sending his car out of control and into the wall. He was forced to go to a back-up Junior Johnson Ford. "They are all about the same. Any one of his cars can win any race," said Yarbrough.
Yarbrough enjoyed a spectacular weekend, having won the Permatex 300 for Sportsman cars the day before. It was a tragic affair as aspiring youngster Don MacTavish was killed in a gruesome eighth lap wreck. Yarbrough won the 300 in a Bondy Long Ford, who has pulled out of Grand National racing due to tax reasons.
Petty struggled to finish eighth in his Ford, but he opened up a 39 point lead in the Grand National point standings over independent James Hylton, who finished 15th in a Dodge.