They spanked the bad good ol' boys today. For forcing Cale Yarborough off the track at 190 miles per hour, Donnie Allison was put on six months probation by stock-car racing's bigwigs.
Both drivers, along with Bobby Allison, also were fined $6,000 for a fist fight that followed the crash on the last lap of Sunday's Daytona 500.
The $588,000 race was won by Richard Petty, who was running third, a mile behind, when Donnie Allison and Yarborough played bump-'em cars in $50,000 machines.
Officials of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) reviewed television tapes of the incident and interviewed the drivers before Bill Gazaway, competition director, in a prepared statement, said,"... Donnie Allison went down onto the apron resulting in Yarborough's car going into the grass.
"In doing so, Donnie Allison acted in a manner contrary to the best interests of the sport... A race leader cannot run anywhere he pleases on a race track."
Allison defended his action Sunday by saying he was the leader and had the right of way down the 3,300-foot back stretch.
The Allison brothers issued a joint statement late tonight.
It said, "We are shocked at the amount of the fine and equally shocked at the unfairness of the whole thing. We have requested a fullscale hearing and legal counsel is considering further action. No further statement will be issued until the hearing."
A friend added, "Needless to say, they aren't happy. They don't agree with NASCAR's opinion of who was at fault. But they don't feel any good will be served by saying anything at this time."
Yarborough, at home in Sardis, S.C., said, "There was no doubt in my mind what they would find when they looked at the films closely. I'm happy they saw exactly what happened."
On Sunday, Yarborough had called the incident "the worst thing I ever saw in racing." He called for both Allisons to be suspended for six months.
Yarborough today said Donnie Allison came all the way across the 30-foot wide backstretch to cut him off on Sunday's last lap.
"I had the whole backstretch to pass him," said Yarborough, who had passed Allison easily three other times in the race and seemed certain to do it with the $73,500 first prize waiting a mile up the road.
"Donnie was right up on the wall," Yarborough said, "and he had the whole track to come across. It wasn't just a matter of him moving over a little. He put me in the dirt."
That's the way good ol' boys have raced forever. Whether it's for a $3 trophy at Dorsey Speedway or for the big bucks at Daytona, they give no quarter. Yarborough, for one, is as aggressive a driver as ever put the pedal to the metal. "Cale ain't got no damn halo over his head," Donnie Allison said Sunday.
By today's ruling, though, NASCAR apparently is sending the drivers a message: Behave yourselves, boys, especially at 190 mph on national television. Even Jimmy Connors, losing to Bjorn Borg, does not hammer the Swede in the noggin with his racket for match point.
Gazaway of NASCAR said. "We cannot let it get to the point that every time two cars take the white flag (indicating the final lap) together that one or both of them doesn't finish and we are trying to prevent any recurrence of this nature." In three of the last four Daytona 500s, late-lap bumpings have determined the winner.
At Dorsey Speedway for that $3 trophy, a driver dukes it out when he feels he's been done dirty. For $73,500 on national television Sunday, Yarborough once a Golden Glove boxing champion, duked it out.
Yarborough said he saw brotherly conspiracy of the Allisons with Bobby trying to block him from passing Donnie. So when Bobby stopped at the accident site, Yarborough "beat the hell out of Bobby," to quote the champ.
Television tapes of the bout show a different story. Bobby kept his racing helmet on, which seemed the smart thing to do, but that was up for debate, too, because Cale, using his hat as a tool of righteousness, ker-plunked it against Bobby's spine. After that, Bobby grabbed Cale's foot and upended the champ, clutched him by the throat and "his face hit my fist three times," to quote Bobby.
Through all this, Donnie Allison acted as a referee, there to break the clinches.
Each of the three was fined $6,000 with a provision that $5,000 will be returned to them, a grand at a time over the next five races if the good ol' boys act good.
Was the fight worth $1,000?
"I have no regrets," Yarborough said.
Even old-timers cannot remember a big-league stock-car driver who was suspended for reckless driving, which apparently would be Donnie Allison's punishment for another incident.
But NASCAR now has established a precedent for such a suspension. Gazaway made that clear with a reference to the winner, Petty.
Some witnesses among the 120,000 at Daytona International Speedway claim Petty cut off runnerup Darrell Waltrip in the same fashion that Allison cut off Yarborough.
Not so, Gazaway said. "Richard Petty's performance at the finish line was a perfect illustration of safe, fair and competitive driving," he said.
The differences were two: (1) Petty was a bumper in front of Waltrip when he moved over to block him; Yarborough was alongside Allison. (2) Petty left Waltrip room to race at the bottom of the rack; Allison left Yarborough nowhere to go but into the infield dirt.