Since rivalry is at the heart of competition, it is reasonable to understand how a battle of wills can move to a level that becomes more of a feud than a healthy and spirited test of skill. Feuding is one of those things that we all can identify with, because we have all been involved in a feud at one time or another.
Literary history is rich with famed quarrels like those of Shakespeare's Montegues and Capulets. American history has its well-known fight between the Hatfields and the McCoys. Then, of course, there are historic feuds among racers.
The history of feuding is by no means confined to the fabled fights on the NASCAR tracks. Indeed, at any track in America, you will likely find a rivalry that has achieved almost indestructible status.
Some of these battles have achieved immortal status, are told and retold, and, in time, grow in intensity and color. Many feuds have resulted in teams and drivers being expelled from tracks or having their wallets lightened by levied fines. In its worst state, some of these wars have led to bodily injuries.
One of the most famous fights witnessed by the racing world was during the first television broadcast of the Daytona 500 in Feburary 1979.
The fight erupted among Cale Yarborough and the Allison brothers, Donnie and Bobby.
It was a fight that had its roots in the intense competition of racing, and on that day, it spilled over into a fist-throwing slugfest. While this conflict was not something anyone anticipated that day (especially NASCAR and CBS), it had the effect of putting racing on the map, so to speak. And in that sense, it was positive. The effect it had on the drivers was an entirely different matter, because fines and admonishments were handed out.
To get an up close and personal look on that event and to understand what was really lost or won, Circle Track took these questions to one of the participants of the famed fight, Bobby Allison. We wanted an historic perspective from one of racing's greatest competitors on how this kind of fighting played out in his career. We also wanted some insight from his experience on who wins and loses in track feuds.
In doing that, we spoke with Allison at length about his career and especially about the on-track competitions that arose. His thoughts centered on his early career, and the story he told us was both colorful and insightful.
That Day in Daytona
Allison's on-track competition was very high because he needed to always prove to others that he deserved to be there. He was a skinny kid from Alabama who began with a homemade car, and he found himself competing with legends of the sport, so the need to demonstrate his ability was enormous. But when it came to the Daytona fight with Cale, he says it was not a feud but rather an incident that just resulted in a fight.
When focusing on that event, Allison told us that it was a result of fast and furious racing but was not rooted in an ongoing feud. Allison was in Bud Moore's Car, Donny was driving Hoss Ellington's, and Cale was in the Junior Johnson car
On the last lap of the race, Donnie and Cale were racing for the win, and Bobby was a lap down. It was on that lap where a crash happened that put Donnie and Cale out of the race. Bobby Allison took the checkered flag (a lap down) and came back around to the scene of the crash.
It was at this point that the melee began. Cale began shouting at Bobby about the crash. That caused tempers to rise, and Bobby returned the shouting
In the ensuing verbal exchange, Bobby increased the tension by throwing some inflammatory comments Cale's way. As Bobby put it, "I think I questioned his (Cale's) ancestry."
Cale went up to Bobby's car and threw his helmet into the driver's compartment, hitting Bobby in the face hard enough to draw blood.