- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 16, 2008

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bobby Allison has no recollection of his two-car length win over son Davey in the 1988 Daytona 500, the result of a career-ending crash that summer in Pocono.

“I remember I won the fishing contest over in the lake and I know we had a big party at a seafood restaurant, but I don’t remember what for,” Bobby recalled yesterday.

But the last-lap, on-track dust-up between Cale Yarborough and Bobby’s brother, Donnie, at the end of 1979 race and the subsequent fist fight between all three parties that catapulted NASCAR into the national sports discussion?

Bobby recalls that verse by verse.

Several parties recalled it yesterday as Daytona International Speedway welcomed all 21 living winners to discuss their victories.

And when it came time for Richard Petty to analyze the sixth of his record seven 500 wins, the fight came up again.

“I lucked into two or three of them, but [1979] was the most unexpected win,” Petty said. “The others, we always felt like we had a chance to win it. Not 1979.”

The stars aligned for NASCAR that day.

For the first time in American television history, a 500-mile race was broadcast live. According to various reports, a winter storm kept most of the East Coast in their homes.

And they watched the 500.

“Anywhere you go, people still talk about it,” Bobby Allison said. “They’ll show it during the telecast on Sunday and they have every year since. It was the biggest thing for publicity that was ever done for NASCAR.”

On lap 32 along the backstretch, the first round of Yarborough vs. the Allisons resulted in a three-car mishap. Yarborough had to pit and fell four laps down. But he compensated during a 35-lap stretch.

On the final lap, Donnie Allison led Yarborough down the backstretch. Petty, Darrell Waltrip and A.J. Foyt trailed in spots 3, 4 and 5.

“We were about 20 seconds behind and I was busy racing for third place — there was no way we were going to win the race because even if they had blown up, they could have coasted to the line to beat us,” Petty said.

Yarborough tried to sling-shot past Allison, who cut him off. His two left tires went into the damp grass and lost control of his car. The two crashed into the Turn 3 wall before skidding into the infield, about 75 to 100 feet apart.

“I came off the second turn and saw the [caution] lights come on and Foyt didn’t run with us that much and he lifted just momentarily and me and Darrell went by him because we knew to race to the line,” Petty said. “All of a sudden, there was some traffic on the infield.”

Petty held off Waltrip by a car length.

Bobby Allison got involved when he stopped along the backside to offer his brother a ride back to the pits. Donnie declined.

“With that, Cale start hollering that the wreck was my fault,” Bobby said. “I probably questioned his ancestry. And that didn’t calm him down. He got to about 15 feet from my car and was stomping and yelling at me some more.”

Yarborough then slammed his helmet into Bobby’s car, giving him a bloody lip and nose.

“It stunned and surprised me,” Allison said. “I told myself, ‘I have to get out of the car and address this right now or I’ll be running from him the rest of my life.’ I got out of the car and he started beating his nose against my fist.”

Yarborough and Bobby Allison combined for seven Daytona 500 wins.

“It came down to the last lap and well, you’ve seen it 1,000 times,” Yarborough said yesterday. “It’s history.”

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