richard petty is the "king" of stock car racing! his kingdom is the nascar nextel cup series and he has more championships, more wins and more daytona 500s than any other driver. baseball has babe ruth, golf has arnold palmer and racing has richard petty.
the crown jewel in a career that spans more than three decades is the 1984 "pepsi firecracker 400" at the famed daytona international speedway. victory in this race gave richard petty a historic 200th win!
the tenacious cale yarborough qualified on the pole with a record speed of 199.743 mph for the '84 "firecracker". petty started sixth and knew his work was cut out for him if he was to beat yarborough. the stage was set. daytona international speedway, the mecca of racing, was the backdrop. the date was july 4th, the nation's birthday. president ronald reagan gave the command to start the engines. this was to be the first time the country's top executive would witness the thrill of a nascar race.
80,000 fans came to their feet as the race thundered to life under the hot florida sun! yarborough led but petty stayed within striking range. with 32 laps to go, petty's stp pontiac slipped past yarborough. the race was now between the two winningest drivers in the history of daytona international speedway.
tension mounted as the laps ran down. thunderheads moved in on the horizon and the pace quickened. on lap 157 of the 160-lap event a car lost control and flipped in turn one. petty and yarborough were now racing for the win - a win that would be determined by the caution flag. whichever driver could get back to the start-finish line first would be victorious.
the two aces rocketed down the back stretch. near the entrance to turn three yarborough started his patented slingshot move and went by petty. yarborough's momentum carried him up the 31 degree banking and petty moved low. the two combatants were side by side exiting turn four. into the tri-oval they stormed. yarborough's chevy and petty's pontiac touched. they were trading paint at two-hundred miles per hour as flagman harold kinder waved the yellow flag. petty beat yarborough by inches to become the leader under caution and take win number 200 two laps later. the "king" was on his throne!