A Tough Win to match the Toughest of Them All
Dale Earnhardt may have been “One Tough Customer” – but in NASCAR, nobody was ever tougher than 5’ 7” Cale Yarborough. The South Carolina high school football, baseball, and basketball star worked out by wrestling bails on the family tobacco farm and turned down an offer from the Washington Redskins in favor of the steering wheel. In his spare time he drove a school bus and illegally started his first NASCAR race at the too-young age of 18 in the 1957 Southern 500 at Darlington - the track where he soared over the fence in spectacular fashion and landed three stories down in the parking lot in 1965…he walked back to the pits.
He wrestled an alligator (of course he won!) and even being hit by lightning once didn’t slow him down. He flew (and landed!) an airplane without ever taking a single lesson and did his best Muhammed Ali impression and duked it out in “The Fight” after the 1979 Daytona 500 – now the stuff of legend that put NASCAR on the map.
As tough as Cale is, his records are equally tough to match. Today at Team Lowe’s Racing’s bread and butter concrete oval in Dover, DE they did just that. After equaling Cale’s record three consecutive championships in 2008 on their way to a record-breaking five straight, Jimmie Johnson and crew have now equaled his 83 career Cup series wins – tied for sixth on the all-time list.
With tough being the theme of the day, it’s only fitting that Johnson’s road to victory lane was a “tough” one after he had to start dead last due to a gear change this morning:
“The conditions were really tough today. I think everybody struggled with balance, corner entry was very uncomfortable for the cars. Mine was decent. Once I got to the top two or three I just couldn’t charge the corner hard enough to catch anybody and put a competitive pass on them. I got the restart of my life there at the end. I was able to just beat the No. 42 through (Turns) 1 and 2 and I guess make it to that line on the back straightaway before the yellow came out.”
Jimmie said he and Miles the Monster were “buddies” and he hopes they “can stay that way.”
His record-extending 11th win at his favorite track is a very special one for Jimmie:
“It means a lot to me. When I was growing up in southern California racing dirt bikes I was a big Cale Yarborough fan. We travelled across the country to race in the Amateur Nationals heading to Oklahoma, we stopped at a Hardees I walked in thinking I would meet Cale Yarborough and left with a burger. So, it opened my eyes to the world of sponsorship at that point in time, but I was such a fan and it’s been an amazing journey along the way. It was a huge honor to tie him with three consecutive championships a few years back and then to be here at 83 wins and a day where things played out in such an awkward and weird fashion just very happy that we’ve got it done. To my 83 wins, I’m just so proud that it’s come with one owner, one sponsor, one manufacturer, one crew chief, one team, this is a very special journey this whole Hendrick Lowe’s team has been on.”
In the end, today is all about Cale and his NASCAR Hall of Fame career and our appreciation for everything “The Timmonsville Flash” did to make our great sport what it is today:
“To be here and tie him at 83 wins is amazing. We just got the tribute helmet. I wasn’t sure how quickly we’d be, or if we’d be able to go there, and get it done. But, Cale, you’re the man. Thank you for all you have done for our sport.”