Yarborough wants a 10th checkered flag at Bristol
One week before his 71st birthday, Cale Yarborough will once again climb into a race car at Bristol Motor Speedway to take part in the Scotts EZ Seed Showdown, set for March 20.
Named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers, the three-time Winston Cup champion still has one aim when he gets behind the wheel of a race car: be the first guy to the checkered flag. Doesn’t matter what his age is, that will always be his one and only philosophy when it comes to racing.
Even when he’s not feeling 100 percent, as was the case a year ago in the inaugural race which features some of the sport’s legends, Yarborough only knows one way to approach competition.
“I want to win,” he said. “I wanted to win it last year, but I had a problem with my foot and it was killing me. But I raced anyway. My foot’s fine this year and I want to win that thing.
“There’s a heck of a lot of pride involved. I’ve played around for the last couple of years, getting in a car here and there, but I want to win this race. All of us want to win. It’s just like anything else, if you’re a real racer you’re going to go for it. And you won’t be happy if you don’t finish first.”
As far as Yarborough, who has 83 Cup victories and is fifth on the all-time win list, is concerned, there is no better track than Bristol Motor Speedway to showcase his obvious talents. The South Carolina native, who racked up 28 wins during his championship years of 1976, ’77 and ‘78, recorded nine victories at the World’s Fastest Half-Mile.
All nine of those wins came between the years of 1973 and 1980 and all of them were in Junior Johnson’s car. Yarborough’s first trip to victory lane at Bristol came in the spring of 1973 and he swept both races in 1976 and 1977, giving him four consecutive wins.
It’s obvious that Yarborough, who made 29 starts at BMS and finished among the top five on 16 occasions, had the oval figured out.
“I just loved racing at that place,” he said. “Any time you love a race track, you’re probably going to do well there. It was a really tough place, but you knew when you won there that you’d done something pretty big. I still feel like the guys who do the best at Bristol are the guys who really know how to race, like we did.”
Naturally, Yarborough has a number of good memories of his victories at BMS. One, in particular, will always stand out in his mind.
“Every one of the races I won there were special to me,” he said. “But the one where I led all 500 laps (1973 Southeastern 500) has to be right up there. That didn’t happen back in those days and it’s hardly happened since.
“Back when they named the grandstands after me, they gave me a plaque that said something about me being the only driver in history to lead all 500 laps at Bristol. I remember showing it to John Andretti that day and he said ‘it should say the ONLY driver who will EVER lead all 500 laps at Bristol because nobody will ever do that again here’. I’m still awfully proud of that.”
Pride will again play a big role in the second edition of the Scotts EZ Seed Showdown. Yarborough is coming to win, and aiming to get his 10th win at Bristol before all is said and done.
“Yeah, the track is a little different,” Yarborough said. “I never ran on anything but asphalt there until last year, but it’s not that different as far as I’m concerned. The race is going to be different though and I like that. I didn’t care for the way it was last year with guys that were still racing being able to be in it. It’s going to be a lot better show and I’m really looking forward to coming back.
“You know, I’m still hearing about last year’s race. People just loved that race and they’re still talking about it. You wouldn’t believe how many fans come up to me today and tell me how great they thought that was. They loved it and I liked being in it. It sure would be nice to come over there and get that 10th win for ‘em.”
The Scotts EZ Seed Showdown will feature 12 retired NASCAR drivers competing in a 35-lap event. Among this year’s entrants are Dave Marcis, Jack Ingram, Charlie Glotzbach, Jimmy Hensley, Tommy Houston and Phil Parsons.
The Showdown takes place after the Scotts Turf Builder 300 Nationwide Series event. Tickets are available, starting at $45, which includes both races. To purchase tickets, call the BMS ticket office at 423-BRISTOL (274-4765) or BUY ONLINE.