Feb 19, 1984; Daytona Bch, FL, USA FILE PHOTO; NASCAR Winston Cup driver Cale Yarborough celebrates in victory lane after winning the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

The year has ended on a sad note for the NASCAR world, as hall of famer and three-time Cup Series champion Cale Yarborough passed away Sunday at the age of 84.

Yarborough, whose NASCAR accolades also included three Daytona 500 wins and four Southern 500 wins (both second-most all-time) has a 31-year career spanning from 1957-1988.

His three Cup Series championships came in three consecutive years, taking home the trophy from 1976-78. He was the first driver to capture three straight championships and was the only driver in the history of the sport to accomplish the feat until Jimmie Johnson won five straight from 2006-10.

After the end of his racing career, Yarborough became an owner and founded Cale Yarborough Motorsports, which he was involved with until the group ceased operations in 2000.

Yarborough was named one of NASCAR’s 50 best drivers in 1998 to coincide with the organization’s 50th anniversary and was named one of NASCAR’s 75 best drivers in 2023 to coincide with the organization’s 75th anniversary. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.

One of the most notable moments of Yarborough’s career came at the end of the 1979 Daytona 500. The race, which was the first to ever be televised live in its entirety, saw Yarborough and fellow driver Donnie Allison both crash on the final lap leading to a victory for Richard Petty. As Petty celebrated, Yarborough and Allison got in a fistfight in the infield, bringing tremendous publicity to the sport and elevating it from a regional specialty to an event with more of a national footprint.

NASCAR CEO Jim France released a statement Sunday afternoon which can be seen below.

“Cale Yarborough was one of the toughest competitors NASCAR has ever seen. His combination of talent, grit and determination separated Cale from his peers, both on the track and in the record book. He was respected and admired by competitors and fans alike and was as comfortable behind the wheel of a tractor as he was behind the wheel of a stock car. On behalf of the France family and NASCAR, I offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Cale Yarborough.”

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