1977 Daytona 500

cale yarbrough and wife betty jo in victory lane at daytona 500
The Daytona 500 thirty years ago has glaring contrasts and similarities to the Daytona 500 run just last year.

The 1977 Daytona 500 was won by Cale Yarborough. He was driving Junior Johnson’s #11 Holly Farms Chevrolet. Cale, and our ‘ol buddy Benny Parsons, were the only 2 drivers left on the lead lap.

Cale beat out Benny by 1.39 seconds to win the 2nd of his 4 Daytona 500’s victories.

A side note: Check out Cale Yarborough in the picture. He ALWAYS seems to have raccoon-eyes from his goggles.
cale yarborough and larry mcreynolds look like long lost brothers

Daytona 500 Contrasts & Similarities

It’s striking to me that the ‘framework’ of the 1977 and 2006 Daytona 500’s were very similar. The pole speed, race speed, caution laps and overall race time are very similar. In this respect, the race is what it has been for 30 years.

The glaring differences are the dynamics within the race.

  • 1977 winner’s purse is 4.2% of what it is today.
  • Only 4.8% of the field were racing on the lead lap. Compared to 72.1% in 2006.
  • 6 cautions in 1977 yield practically the same number of caution laps as 11 cautions in 2006. (Slower cleaning up the track?)
  • There were 40.1% of the 1977 cars still in the race at the end compared to the 90.5% still in the race at the end of the 2006 Daytona 500.
Contrasts & Similarities of Daytona 500’s
Daytona 500 1977 2006
Winners Purse $63,700.00 $1,505,124.00
Pole Speed 188.048 mph 189.151 mph
Avg. Race Speed 153.218 mph 142.667 mph
On lead lap 2 31
Cautions/laps 6 for 37 laps 11 for 39 laps
Running end of race 17 38
Race time 3:15:48 3:33:26

So, a NASCAR driver in the 1977 Daytona 500 could pretty much figure his car was gonna either break down or get wrecked. If by chance he did finish the race, he was going to be several laps down. And, the money he would bring home was going to be peanuts compared to what the ‘race kids’ would be making 30 years later when he was old and gray.

Still racing after all these years

Some very notable entries in the 2007 Daytona were also there 30 years ago.

James Hylton, the 72-year old hoping to qualify this year, started the 1977 Daytona 500 in 37th and finished 10th.

Ricky Rudd, driving the #22 Al Rudd Auto Parts car, started the 1977 Daytona 500 in 21st and finished 22nd.

Richard Childress, yes that Richard Childress, started the 1977 Daytona 500 in 32nd and finished 23rd.”