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LeeRoy Yarbrough
Sept. 17, 1938   -    Dec. 7, 1984

LeeRoy 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.

Buried at Peoria Cemetery, located in Orange Park, Clay County, FL.


 

Yarbrough: No Respect For Fear        By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER – Fulton County News

"Lee 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 wins.

His big opportunity came in 1967. Junior Johnson, 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 Daytona 500.

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 correct.
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.

He 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.

Over 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.

"Lee Roy 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."

The Fallen Star, LeeRoy Yarbrough
From: Dick Ralstin's Racing Home Page

Life 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.

Lee Roy 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.

Julian 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.

Lee Roy 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.

He joined the Grand National ranks driving for Ray Fox with mediocre success, two short track wins in '64.

Finally the sky brightened in 1966 when he teamed with car owner Jon Thorne to win the National 500 at Charlotte, NC

Lee Roy 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.

However 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.

The next year, '68, was a learning year as Johnson and Nab learned to communicate and understand some of the strange quirks of Lee Roy's personality.

Then came 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.

There was 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 time.

Finally 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.

But 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.

Art 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 Ronald Reagen.

Lee Roy had reached the pinnacle of his mountain.

A hard 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.

Three 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

Some said it was Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, some said he had a serious drinking problem, some said it was the memory of too many concrete walls.

Lee Roy 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.

He pretty 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.

Feb. 13, 1980 it happened. Something snapped and Lee Roy savagely attacked his Mother, nearly choking her to death.

On March 7, 1980 Lee Roy was judged incompetent to stand trial for attempted murder and was committed to a Florida mental hospital.

Then on 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.

Lee Roy 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.

The 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 Races including:

--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


LeeRoy TRIVIA

==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.

==1967: 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

Early 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.

 

Lee Roy Yarbrough was a super speedway demon in 1969, astonishing his counterparts and securely notching his name in NASCAR history.

 

 

 

 

Lee Roy Yarbrough at Jacksonville dirt in a black '31 Ford Model A Coupe, powered by a dual quad 409 Chevy.
     Courtesy Eddie Roche

 

Yarbrough 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 Rockingham.

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!

1967 Cyclone - Yarborough

1969 UNOCAL 76 PIT CREW WINNERS
1969--Herb Nab (Crew Chief)--LeeRoy Yarbrough (Driver)--Ford


Racing with Benny Parsons # 72




Dave Marcis and Winged Plymouth on the inside


Just ahead of Cale


Purple Charger


'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 Donnie Allison
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


Diecast

LeeRoy Yarbrough  Grand National / Winston Cup Statistics   

Year Age Races Win T5 T10 Pole Laps Led Earnings Rank AvSt AvFn LLF
1960 21 1 of 44 0 0 0 0 60 0 225 137 18.0 33.0 0
1962 23 12 of 53 0 1 1 0 1478 0 3,485 36 19.4 24.2 0
1963 24 14 of 55 0 1 5 1 2564 8 6,680 26 16.2 16.9 0
1964 25 34 of 62 2 11 15 0 5896 200 16,629 15 12.2 11.7 4
1965 26 14 of 55 0 2 3 0 1747 42 5,905 37 18.1 19.3 0
1966 27 9 of 49 1 2 4 2 1545 364 23,980 26 8.0 18.4 2
1967 28 15 of 49 1 3 4 0 2647 34 15,575 37 9.1 20.3 1
1968 29 26 of 49 2 15 16 6 6423 1300 87,919 16 5.5 12.1 4
1969 30 30 of 54 7 16 21 0 8190 1155 193,211 16 5.5 8.9 9
1970 31 19 of 48 1 8 11 2 4250 302 61,980 43 6.3 13.8 4
1971 32 6 of 48 0 1 3 0 1144 26 9,260 73 10.8 18.7 1
1972 33 18 of 31 0 5 9 0 4174 8 40,705 34 12.9 17.6 0
12 years 198 14 65 92 11 40118 3439 465,554   10.5 15.0 25

Many thanks to Greg Fielden for Photos. Check out his website HERE.


Nascar Nextel Cup Series Tickets





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