The unwritten rule going into a turn on the last lap of a race this important is, 'You took chances all day long, so now is the time to go for broke.' You don't run into somebody on purpose, but you don't get overly concerned with him, either."
So said Richard Petty on Sunday after he had won the Daytona 500 thanks to the two leaders crashing into each other on the next-to-last turn of the race.
It would be safe to say that Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison weren't overly concerned about each other—at least not each other's welfare—on the last lap of the 500. With 499 miles and one wild spin already behind them, Allison led Yarborough by a car length. Earlier in the race, Yarborough had twice shot past Allison, and they both knew he was capable of doing it again. As they approached Turn 3, Yarborough's car dropped beneath Allison and drew up alongside him on the back straight. Donnie moved down to prevent the pass. To complicate matters, Bobby Allison, Donnie's brother, was ahead of Yarborough. Cale had two choices: slow down and lose the race or try getting by down on the grass, which is really no choice at all for a racer. With two wheels riding on the grass slickened from an overnight rain, Yarborough's blue-and-white Olds-mobile was hit by the left side of Allison's maroon Olds. They bounced off each other several times as they careened up into the cement retaining wall and then back down across the track once again, coming to rest at last on the grass verge. Petty, half a lap behind in third place, breezed by their wreckage and held off Darrell Waltrip and A. J. Foyt at the flag. Meanwhile, Donnie and Cale, soon joined by Bobby, were duking it out across the track by Turn 3.
Speaking generally, because he hadn't seen the crash and wasn't about to place any blame, Petty said, "If you're leading, you can cut the other guy off, but you always give him a way out. You can run him down to the flat, but you don't run him into the dirt."
As the two demolished Oldsmobiles were towed back to their garages, Yarborough was quivering with rage. "They double-teamed me," he fumed. "Bobby held me up and waited on Donnie so they could block me out. I run up on the back of Bobby, and Donnie came down on the apron and knocked me on the grass. He came all the way down and carried me into the mud. I was in the dirt before we even touched. My left wheels were in the dirt, and he knocked me all the way in. I knew it was going to happen. I just couldn't do anything about it. So I knocked the hell out of him. We just kept bumping into each other all the way into the wall.
"I got out of my car and went over to Donnie's car and said, 'That's the worst thing I ever seen.' Then Bobby came over. I asked him why he slowed down. Then I swung at him. Then all three of us went at it. That was the first fistfight I've been in since I was a teen-ager.
"I knew how to win the race. I had the race won, wasn't any doubt about it. I had him beat. He knew it, too.
"You can be sure I'll remember it. If NASCAR don't disqualify them two—I mean suspend them—there ain't no justice in NASCAR, that's all I got to say."
Donnie, wearing a look that could kill, said, "I was prepared for anything. I wasn't fixing to back off. I felt like I had to keep from getting knocked out. I said to myself, if I hit that damn wall he was going to hit it just as hard as I was.
"I don't think Bobby slowed down. I had made up my mind I was going to go low regardless of what Bobby did. If Cale was going to pass me he was going to have to do it high. I was as low as you can go on the racetrack, and he was lower than me. I came off the corner and he just went off the damn racetrack.