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Daytona Dustup

The 1979 Daytona 500 was the first 500-mile (804.7 km) race ever to be broadcast live on U.S. television, and CBS got their money’s worth in more ways than one. First, viewers got an exciting finish to the race. Donnie Allison led Cale Yarborough coming down the backstretch on the final lap. When Yarborough tried to pass on the inside, the cars bumped, and Yarborough lost control. The two cars hit each other, and then the wall, before coming to rest in the infield.

That is when CBS got an unexpected bonus as Donnie’s brother Bobby stopped to see if he was okay. Yarborough, angry about the crash, approached the brothers and hit Bobby in the face with his helmet. On live TV, a melee ensued with the three drivers throwing punches and swinging helmets. Yarborough said, “I think it made a lot of fans. I think it was one of the biggest things ever to happen in the sport. It got people’s attention.” Incidentally, superstar driver Richard Petty won the race.


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