Commissioner William Caleb (Cale) Yarborough of Florence, S.C., won his second Daytona 500-mile Grand National stock car race today, 14 seconds ahead of Benny Parsons, Ellerbe, N.C. Both drove Chevrolets.
All other finishers were at least one lap behind the leaders on the 2.5-mile speedway. They included the first woman to complete in the event.
About 135,000 spectators, including ambassadors, a Washington college president and Billy Carter, watched the race, marred by one injury.
Yarborough, victor here in 1968, was rarely out of the top three positions throughout the race and led for 332.5 miles. He and Parsons, the 1975 winner, swapped the lead the last 200 miles but Yarborough always appeared to have the stronger machine.
Yarborough averaged 153.21 miles per hour, well under the record of 161.55, and earned $63,700 of the $400,000 purse. He also won a 125-mile qualifying dash on Thursday and the International Race of Champions final Friday for total winnings of $93,300 over his 19th annual Daytona speed weekend.
Finishing third in the 500 was Buddy Baker, Charlotte, N.C., in a Ford. Clifton Burton (Coo Coo) Marlin, Columbia, Tenn., was fourth in a Chevrolet. Fifth, two laps behind, driving the Truxmore Ford from Richmond, Va., was Dick Brooks, Spartanburg, S.C. Nineteen of the 42 starters finished the race under sunny skies but on a track buffeted by gusty winds and filled with blowing trash.
The derbis, mostly paper, clogged the air intakes of some cars and caused them to overheat.
There were six caution flags, covering 92.5 miles. Bobby Wawak, Villa Park, III., suffered first and second-degree burns after his Chevrolet caught fire on the fourth lap. He will be hospitalized several days for treatment here. There were no other injuries.
Yarborough said, "I knew Benny (Parsons) was running strong, but I felt I could beat him. He was drafting me and the traffic had thinned out so I couldn't use slower cars to help me block him. When we did come across a couple of cars, I managed to put some moves on him and broke the draft," forcing Parsons to drop back from Yarborough's lead.
Drafting occurs when a car moves within inches of a lead car and takes advantage of the first breaking the wind. The second car can go as fast as the leader and save fuel.
The race began with five-time Daytona winner Richard Petty's Dodge stalled in the pits after the parade lap because of an oil lead. After repairs, he was a lap behind the field as Yarborough and A. J. Foyt in a Chevrolet exchanged the lead.
Petty began, a spectacular charge that took him into third place at 135 miles. Yarborough, Foyt, Donnie Alison, the race's fasted qualifier in a Chevrolet, and Baker had set up a train led by the eventual winner to break away from the rest of the field. Petty caught them, helped by three caution periods that bunched the field.
Yarborough continueed to tow his pursuers, led by Petty and Foyt, until the 220-mile mark when Donnie Allison sustained a shredded right rear tire. Foyt took the lead briefly under the ensuing caution flag but lost it as soon as racing speeds were resumed.
Again, Yarborough went to the front followed by Petty and Parker. Petty bid ended at 275 miles with valve trouble.
Baker, trying to win his first Daytona race in a career dating back to 1959, then went into first. Yarborough stopped for tires and fuel, losing a lap to the leader. Darrell Waltrip in a Chevrolet, challenged Paker as David Pearson drove his Mercury into third place.
The first five cars were never more than five lengths apart, moving as though chained together, in a classic example of drafting at 185 miles per hour. By 300 miles, Yarborough had regained his lost lap and fell in barely behind Parsons, then the leader, and Pearson, as the field slowed after a backstretch collision between Baker and Salt Walther.
Baker's continued, although his car suffered severe body damage, but he was not a factor in the race. At 337.5-miles, Pearson was out with valve trouble. Yarborough had raced into the lead, opening up a four-length margin on Parsons. At 365 miles, all cars were a lap down to the two leaders, who still needed to make one more stop to refuel their 22-gallon tanks.
T caution flag at 410 miles allowed both to come in without losing ground to the trailers. Parsons' stop was a shade quicker, letting him move into first place as they emerged from the pits. He held the lead for only two laps at racing speeds before Yarborough whipped strongly past him coming off the turn heading for the homestretch after 432.5 miles.
Parsons stayed on the leader's rear bumper until Yarborough found the help he wanted in slower cars. Having lost his tow from the leader, Parsons could not seriously challenge again in the remaining distance.
By placing 12th in a Chevrolet, Janea Guthrie won the top rookie award. The first woman driver in the Daytona 500 earned $7,390. Among prerace favorites, Foyt finished sixth; Waltrip, seventh; Bobby Allison, 15th: Johnny Rutherford, 41st.