Sept. 17, 1938 - Dec. 7, 1984
Yarbrough drove for the
legendary car owner Junior Johnson
and had quite a productive career as a driver
as one of the best
super speedway drivers in NASCAR history. He joined Johnson's race team in
1967, and it was a perfect match. "Lee Roy had the most raw talent I've ever
seen." said Junior. In 1969, he won the Daytona 500, the World 600, and the
Southern 500, the equivalent of the Winston Million. LeeRoy drove the
#98 Mercury Cyclone II to victory in the 1969 Daytona 500 and went on to set
a record for consecutive super speedway wins in a single season. His Mercury
was definitely a threat to win every time it entered a race. Unfortunately,
injuries he received in a crash shortened his career. Sadly, in 1984 he died
at the age of 46 in an institution while battling alcoholism.
at Peoria Cemetery, located in Orange Park,
Clay County, FL.
Yarbrough: No Respect For Fear
Roy was one of the best racers I ever ran against," said
former NASCAR driver Sam
McQuagg. "There are lots of good drivers, but he
had natural driving talent that most of them don't have. If
you were ahead of him, you better watch out. If you blinked
too many times he would pass you. And one of the best things
about him, is he was not a dirty driver."
Lee Roy Yarbrough
was born in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1938. His rise to fame
was like a moth flying around a candle. He remained in the
limelight only a few years before his NASCAR career burned
out. His first NASCAR race was in 1960. That year he only
ran a single event. The following year he ran 12 races and
finished 36th in points. In 1963, he ran 14 events with no
His big opportunity came in 1967.
who had retired from racing by this time, was not having
much success with Darel
Dieringer. When 1969 rolled around Lee Roy and
Junior were ready. With a year to adjust, the team entered
30 of the 54 races and won seven. His record included 21
top-10 finishes, and was the first driver to win NASCAR's
version of the Triple Crown - the Daytona 500, the
Firecracker 400 and the Southern 500.
His best season came in 1969, and even though he only
had 30 starts that year, he won seven times and finished in
the top 10, 21 times. "It was a great year," recalled
Johnson. "We won half the races we ran. I'm not taking
anything away from my car, but you just have to give it to
him (Yarbrough). He was beyond any other driver there was at
that particular time with taking chances and just going
beyond what anybody thought anybody would do. He just
out-nerved most of the drivers that he ran against that
year. It was unbelievable to see the chances he'd take. Lee
Roy had no, you might say, respect for fear at all. He just
didn't. Nothing out-nerved him and that's basically the way
he won some of them races we were in. He'd just keep going
deeper and deeper. Whatever it took to beat somebody, that's
what he did." Lee Roy drove for Junior Johnson from late
1967 through 1970. During his tenure with Johnson, he won 10
races, including the 1969
He was a supremely confident driver throughout his
stock car racing career. In his early years, he was as cocky
as they came, often bragging that he could do things with a
fast car that others couldn't. And much of the time, he was
But his problems began in 1970, after winning only one race.
His life was problematic and filled with mysteries, but he
also had many demons inside. He was a brawler, who got the
reputation as the only man tough enough to take on the
gigantic Tiny Lund.
The two drivers weren't exactly enemies, just friends who
didn't see eye to eye, and wouldn't take time to talk things
out. "Lee Roy and Tiny started fighting before the race,"
said car owner Bud Moore,
"And they fought some more after the race. Then we took off.
We got up in the air and Lee Roy and Tiny started fighting
all over again. I thought they were going to tear the sides
out of the thing. It's a wonder we didn't crash with them
two boys fighting like that."
He was one of the first to lavish praise on his crew
members during post-race interviews, and he was often heard
thanking the Lord for his driving talents. And then as
suddenly as he rose upwards, the downward spiral set in.
was gone in a short time. Friends remembered bizarre
violence. One afternoon after returning from the track to
his motel room, he was raging mad. He snatched his wife up
by the hair of the head and dragged her out of the room,
kicking her as he dragged her along the hallway. He had a
bad crash during a test session while driving for Junior in
April 1970. After that he started drinking pretty bad, and
using painkillers. He spent days sitting, or out on a lake
in a boat, drinking. "I don't really know what happened to
him, but I know he started drinking pretty bad," continued
McQuagg. "Some folks thought it might have been caused by
Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but I don't think he was ever
the same after that hard crash."
In 1972, he drove in 18 NASCAR races with nine top-10
finishes. That was his last year of competition. His racing
career ended at the age of 33.
the next few years, he was picked up several times by
Jacksonville police. Sometimes it was for fighting, at other
times it might be drunkenness. He wandered the streets
aimlessly. On the morning of February 13, 1980, he was at
his mother's house in Jacksonville. It was the day of the
twin 125-mile qualifying races at Daytona. Lee Roy was
destitute and his mind was playing tricks on him. He put his
hands around his mother's neck and said, "Mama, I hate to do
this, but I've got to kill you." One of his nephews that was
in the house heard the commotion and came in. Looking
around, he grabbed a quart jar of preserves off the kitchen
table and busted it on Lee Roy's head. The police came and
took him to a psychiatric ward. Eventually he was judged
incompetent to stand trial. It was at that time doctors
discovered the lesions in his brain.
was capable of winning any race," said Johnson. "A lot of
people have an opportunity to win four or five times a year,
but he was one driver that I know that had the capability of
winning every race he went to. He was just a great race
driver. I enjoyed working with him, and I was sorry his
career was cut short."
Fallen Star, LeeRoy Yarbrough
Dick Ralstin's Racing Home Page
is a mountain that every man tries to climb, some reach the
peak with little trouble and enjoy the fruits of success.
For others the climb is an almost endless struggle with the
enjoyment of success lost in the blink of eye.
Yarbrough was a Jacksonville, Fla., high school dropout who
built his first race car, a '33 Ford street roadster, at the
age of 16. His first time out in the roadster he won a
feature at Jacksonville (Fla.) Speedway.
Klein, Jacksonville race promoter, took the cocky, brash and
quick to anger youngster in tow and during the next few
years Lee Roy won more than a 100 Sportsman and Modified
features. Klein finally grew tired of Yarbrough's temper and
attitude and the pair parted company.
knocked around for a few years and then surfaced at Daytona
International Speedway in 1962 and won his first "big" race
on the famed high banks, the Modified-Sportsman 250 run
every year as a prelim to the Daytona 500. He went on to win
37 NASCAR Late Model Sportsman races in '62.
the Grand National ranks driving for Ray Fox with mediocre
success, two short track wins in '64.
the sky brightened in 1966 when he teamed with car owner Jon
Thorne to win the National 500 at Charlotte, NC
tried the Indianapolis 500 in 1967 but the trip was less
than successful. Driving the Jim Robbins car,
he tangled with Cale Yarborough and Lloyd Ruby on the 87th
lap and crashed hard into the outer wall and finished 27th.
the sun continued to shine for our boy in NASCAR land and in
Oct. of '67 the legendary Junior Johnson hired him to drive
for Johnson's factory Ford team with Herb Nab as crew chief.
year, '68, was a learning year as Johnson and Nab learned to
communicate and understand some of the strange quirks of Lee
the unbelievable successes of 1969, a victory in the Daytona
500 was followed by wins in the Rebel 400 at Darlington,
Firecracker 400 at Daytona, Dixie 500 at Atlanta, and the
Southern 500 for a clean sweep at Darlington.
one more chance for still more glory, in 1970, the inaugural
California 500 at the spanking new Ontario Motor Speedway.
It was a dandy race from the git go with Lloyd Ruby, Al
Unser, Dan Gurney, Peter Revson swapping the lead with
regularity and Lee Roy running close to the leaders all the
with 14 laps to go Al Unser had taken the lead and looked to
have things well in hand. Then, bingo, transmission trouble
forced Al into the pits and out of nowhere came Lee Roy to
claim the lead.
fortune frowned on Yarbrough and with victory in sight, nine
laps to go, Lee Roy's Brabham-Offy blew its engine and Lee
Roy coasted to an eighth place finish.
Pollard and Jim McElreath dueled the remaining few laps for
the lead, with Jimmy pulling into Victory Lane to be
greeted, and receive the handshake, from California Governor
had reached the pinnacle of his mountain.
crash, while testing tires at Texas World Speedway later in
1970 rattled Lee Roy's cage pretty badly and left him
disoriented. In fact he couldn't remember fellow driver Cale
Yarborough picking him up in Texas a few days later and
flying him home. The he couldn't remember flying on to
Martinsville, or running in the race at Martinsville.
more trips to Indianapolis, 1969, '70 and '71, ended without
success and the '71 trip was a total disaster. On May 8,
1971 Yarbrough was driving a Dan Gurney Eagle when he spun
and crashed hard in turn one. Lee Roy spent the next few
months, June thru November, in and out of the hospital with
many different ailments and memory lapses
it was Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, some said he had a
problem, some said it was the memory of too many concrete
tried a comeback in 1972 but on Sept. 24, at Marinsville,
Va. he drove a race car for the last time, he crashed on the
109th lap. Lee Roy's trip down from his mountain top had
taken less than three years.
much dropped out of sight for the next few years, but every
once in a while there would be a brief mention about Lee Roy
being back in the hospital for treatment of memory lapse and
violent behavior again.
1980 it happened. Something snapped and Lee Roy savagely
attacked his Mother, nearly choking her to death.
7, 1980 Lee Roy was judged incompetent to stand trial for
attempted murder and was committed to a Florida mental
Dec.6,1984 Yarbrough had a violent seizure and fell striking
his head. He was rushed to Jacksonville's University
Hospital where he died the morning of Dec.7,1984. The
doctors said he died of internal bleeding in the brain,
those who knew him said he died because he was tired of
living at the bottom of his mountain.
Yarbrough had enjoyed a brief time at the peak of his
mountain, but it wasn't until 1990 that his peers recognized
his exceptional talent when it came to driving a race car.
Southern Motorsports Writers elected Lee Roy Yarbrough into
the National Motorsports Press Association's Hall of Fame At
Darlington, SC Raceway in 1990.
Thanks to Don Hunter for the second photograph and Dick
Wallen for the third and fourth.
During his career he won 14 Winston Cup
--Savannah Speedway on May 1, 1964
--Greenville-Pickens on May 30, 1964
--Charlotte on October 16, 1966
--Daytona Qualifier on February 24, 1967
--Trenton on July 14, 1968
--Atlanta on August 4, 1968
--Daytona on February 23, 1969
--Darlington on May 10, 1969
--Charlotte on May 25, 1969
--Daytona on July 4, 1969
--Atlanta on August 10, 1969
--Darlington on September 1, 1969
--Rockingham on October 16, 1969
--Charlotte on October 11, 1970
==Place and Date of LeeRoy
Yarbrough's last Nascar win? October 11, 1970
at Charlotte Motor Speedway...
==Only Four: Only
four drivers have won both NASCAR Winston Cup races at Daytona in the
same year: Fireball Roberts (1962), Cale Yarborough (1968),
LeeRoy Yarborough (1969) and Bobby Allison (1982)
==Brother Yarbrough: Sorry, but if you
were thinking Cale's brother, you'd be wrong. In fact, they don't
even spell it quite the same (Yarborough). LeeRoy was an exceptional racer in his own
right, through the 60's and into the early 70's, when ill health forced
him to retire.
Due to new rules by NASCAR starting with the July 4th Firecracker 400 at
Daytona, Lee Roy Yarbrough’s Mercury Comet was the only car that passed
first round inspection
Days: In 1963, Lee Roy Yarbrough won a Late
Model Sportsman (now BGN) race at Daytona in a car owned and prepared by
Gil Cramer, not necessarily a good ole boy, but a native of western New
York. Yarborough would go on to record many wins both in Busch and
Winston Cup action, primarily behind the wheel of Fords. When Chevrolet
got back into racing in the early 70's, he teamed with A.J. Foyt and
Charlie Glotzbach in a trio of Monte Carlos. GN car to the left.
Yarbrough was a super speedway demon in 1969, astonishing his
counterparts and securely notching his name in NASCAR history.
Yarbrough at Jacksonville dirt in a black '31 Ford Model A Coupe,
powered by a dual quad 409 Chevy.
Courtesy Eddie Roche
won the Daytona 500 at Daytona Speedway, the Rebel 400 at Darlington
Raceway, the World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the Firecracker 400
at Daytona, the Dixie 500 at Atlanta Raceway, the Southern 500 at
Darlington and the American 500 at North Carolina Motor Speedway in
He earned $188,605 that season, setting another NASCAR record.
With his victories in the Daytona 500, the World 600 and the Southern
500, Yarbrough was the first to capture NASCAR's "Triple Crown" by
winning the richest, the longest and the oldest NASCAR races in a single
season. All told, Yarbrough claimed 14 Grand National (now Winston Cup)
victories and 11 pole positions.
Additionally, he won hundreds of NASCAR Modified and Sportsman
races. His career tapered off in the early 1970's, hampered by an
illness that later caused his death.
- JERRY LEE YARBROUGH
"Can I borrow some
grease? This uniform is too white!"
Notice the treaded tire to the left
rear. Yes, in the 60's the tires were modified street treads!
1969 UNOCAL 76 PIT CREW WINNERS
Nab (Crew Chief)--LeeRoy Yarbrough (Driver)--Ford
Racing with Benny Parsons # 72
Dave Marcis and Winged Plymouth on the inside
Just ahead of Cale
'69 Southern 500 - Petty follows
1969 Daytona 500 Winner - Ford Torino Cobra
LeeRoy Yarbrough savors the thrill
of victory with Miss Falstaff and crew chief Herb Nab following his
triumph in the 1970 National 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Falstaff
Brewing Co. was the primary sponsor of the NASCAR champion point fund in
1970, tossing in $25,000 to the champion. The following year, R.J.
Reynolds came into NASCAR and has provided the point fund ever since.
(L to R) Cale Yarbrough, LeeRoy Yarbrough, Bobby Allison, David Pearson
Check out those shoes!
Also note the driving suits. In order to get more advertising, GoodYear
supplies the first fire suits.
Ford Motor Co. fielded a powerful
factory team in 1969. Drivers (clockwise starting from the bottom) were
David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Richard Petty, LeeRoy Yarbrough and
Donnie Allison. Pearson's #17 Holman-Moody Ford was used for this
publicity shot. Fords won 15 of the 17 races stages on superspeedways
and tracks over a mile in length. Back then, NASCAR did not really
concern themselves with "leveling the playing field" like they do today.
If a manufacturer came up with a better product, then they won the most
races adn the rules were left alone. Ford's dominance in 1969 was
directly responsible for the fabulous winged cars that Chrysler
introduced in late 1969.
Very detailed, scaled model
LeeRoy Yarbrough Grand National / Winston Cup Statistics
Many thanks to Greg Fielden for Photos. Check out his website
Nascar Nextel Cup Series Tickets
Copyright © 2003
by Roland Via. All rights reserved. Revised:
06/08/12 08:11:13 -0400.
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