1979 Daytona 500 winner Richard PettyCale and 'Donnybrook' Escapade Spices Daytona Thriller; Petty Wins

DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Feb. 18) -- Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough took each other out in a spectacular last lap wreck, opening the door for Richard Petty to win his sixth Daytona 500.

The $73,900 victory snapped Petty's 45-race winless skid. He was running 15 seconds behind the Allison-Yarborough duel entering the final lap.

Allison and Yarborough both made up incredible deficits to become the principles in the first 500-miler to be televised flag-to-flag live. Allison made up one lap and Yarborough came from three laps down following a spin in the 32nd lap. As the pair whipped onto the 3,000 foot backstretch for the final time, Yarborough tried to slingshot under Allison's Oldsmobile. Allison skipped down two lanes and blocked the move. Yarborough ran out of room and got all four tires in the dirt. Without lifting the throttle, Cale came back onto the track and collided with Allison. Both cars fused together and plowed into the third turn wall. The cars slid down the banking and came to rest in the infield.

Petty received word of the mishap via radio and led a three car charge past the crash site. At the finish line, Petty beat Darrell Waltrip by a single car length. A.J. Foyt was a close third. Donnie Allison got credit for fourth based on the 199 laps he completed. Yarborough got fifth.

Immediately after the checkered flag, Bobby Allison, who finished 11th, stopped his car to check on the condition of the two drivers who crashed. Cale and Bobby argued for a moment before Yarborough took a swing at him.

Allison dismounted and Donnie joined in. A free-for-all took place. All of this was being caught by cameramen for CBS, who were televising the race live.

Yarborough blamed the Allisons for teaming up on him in the final lap, although Bobby's Ford was several hundred yards ahead of the two cars on the last lap. "It's the worst thing I've ever seen in racing," charged Yarborough. "Bobby waited on us to try to block me. I knew how to win the race. Donnie carried me onto the grass. After that, I lost control."

Donnie Allison said, "I made up my mind that if he was going to pass me, he would have to pass me high. When he tried to pass me low, he went off the track. He spun and hit me."

Bobby Allison said he stopped on his cool-off lap "to see if they were both okay. I sure didn't block Cale. I was way ahead of him."

NASCAR said Allison used up too much track on the final lap and placed him on probation.

Buddy Baker, record-setting pole winner, never got untracked and pulled his Oldsmobile behind the pit wall after 38 laps.

For Petty, it was a miraculous victory. During the off-season, he had 40% of his stomach removed by surgery and violated doctors instructions to refrain from racing for three months. "I told them I was going to race and there wasn't nothin' they could do about that," he said. "I didn't know what happened on that last lap. I saw the yellow light flash. I radioed my pit crew and asked them where the wreck was. All they said was 'Go, go, go'. I couldn't believe it when I saw both them cars sittin' in the grass."

Petty averaged 143.977 mph before a trackside audience of 120,000.


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