By admin | January 18, 2012
By Richard Allen
In a somewhat appropriate twist of fate, a pair of former rivals make up part of the 2012 class to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame this Friday night in Charlotte. Over the course of their careers, Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough often butted heads on the track and in front of the microphone.
Cale Yarborough began his NASCAR racing career at age 18 in 1957 when he ran an event at Darlington, a track he had once sneaked into to watch races as a youngster. The one time football star and all around tough guy from Timmonsville, South Carolina toiled throughout the 1960s to build his skill and his name as a race car driver so when the young and talkative Darrell Waltrip came on the scene in 1972, he often drew the ire of Yarborough.
As Waltrip began his own process of climbing the NASCAR ladder the more established stars in the sport, including Yarborough, were quick to take notice of his brass style and his way with words. The driver from Franklin, Tennessee by way of Owensboro, Kentucky attracted immediate fame by frequently beating those big stars on the track, and then drew even more attention to himself when he stepped in front of the microphone.
From 1972 to 1980 Yarborough was a dominant force in NASCAR. During that time period he earned three consecutive championships(1976-1978) as well as three runner-up spots in the series standings. Driving in most of those years for current Hall of Fame member Junior Johnson, Yarborough scored 55 of his career total of 83 victories during his most productive nine seasons.
But as Yarborough went about his business of dominating the sport, Waltrip served as a constant thorn in his side as he not only began winning races but also as he touted his own triumphs and openly challenged those who still ranked above him. At one point, Yarborough grew so tired of Waltrip’s microphone demeanor that he nicknamed his younger adversary “Jaws” after the famous shark with a big mouth that had taken over movie screens during the decade of their rivalry.
But even as constant rivals, there was recognition of each others’ driving prowess between the two. Waltrip, in his years as a broadcaster, has often mentioned Yarborough’s toughness and hard nosed style. And despite the nicknaming of his rival, it was actually Yarborough who recommended that Waltrip be the man to take his place in Johnson’s #11 car when in 1980 Yarborough decided to run only a partial schedule.
Waltrip went on to pile up scores of race wins and three championship trophies for Johnson. In all, DW registered 84 victories over the course of his career.
Even though Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip were often bitter rivals on the track, their careers were in many ways tied together as the competition between the two no doubt made each better. And more, the association each had with another Hall of Famer made each a champion. It seems all together fitting that these two men should enter the NASCAR Hall of Fame together this Friday evening.
Look for columns on Glen Wood and Dale Inman as well as a piece on Richie Evans coming soon to this site.
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