- September 17, 1938
- December 07, 1984
- United States
- Not Active
LeeRoy Yarbrough was an American stock car racing driver who was active between 1960 and 1972, recording 198 starts in the NASCAR Cup Series and winning fourteen times. His most successful season was 1969, when he won seven times and became the first ever driver to score NASCAR's Triple Crown by winning three great races – Daytona 500, Southern 500 and World 600.
Starting a career in a dirt track
Lonnie 'LeeRoy' Yarbrough was born in Jacksonville, Florida, where he grew up and started a racing career at the age 19, winning his first race on a dirt track of the Jacksonville Speedway. He started his climb on the NASCAR ladder in the Sportsman division and then in the more powerful Modified division. He won more than eighty races in a three-year span.
NASCAR Grand National debut in 1960
Yarbrough made his debut in the NASCAR Grand National Series in 1960, driving his own Chevrolet at Atlanta International Raceway in October's Atlanta 500. He crashed out after 60 laps.
He returned to NASCAR Grand National two years later, in 1962. He participated in twelve races, driving different cars for five different owners. His best result was 5th place at Valdosta 75 Speedway. In 1963, he participated in fourteen races, again scoring one Top 5 result by finishing fifth at Southern 500 at Bristol International Speedway.
Maiden Grand National victory at Savannah Speedway
In 1964, Yarbrough expanded his schedule to 34 races over the year, scoring two victories. His maiden Grand National victory came on May 1 at Savannah Speedway. In that race, he was driving the #45 Plymouth for Louis Weathersbee. One more victory with the same car followed on May 30 at Greenville-Pickens Speedway.
Yarbrough ended a season with fifteen Top 10 results, placing himself 15th in the final standings. It remained his career-best result at the end of the season.
First superspeedway victory in 1966
In 1965, he was without wins in fourteen Grand National starts with five different cars. In 1966, Yarbrough participated in just nine races but he manages to win once.
He won at Charlotte the National 500 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, scoring his first superspeedway victory. In that race, he was driving the #12 Dodge for Jon Thorne.
Indianapolis 500 debut in 1967
In 1967, Yarbrough was the race winner once in fifteen Grand National starts, winning the Daytona 500 Qualifier in the #12 Dodge.
In May 1967, Yarbrough debuted at Indianapolis 500, where he was driving the #67 Volkstedt-Ford for Jim Robbins. He was 26th on the starting grid but didn't finish the race, crashing out after 87 laps.
Yarbrough joined Junior Johnson in 1968
In 1968, Yarbrough expanded his stock car racing schedule to twenty-six races and manage to win two times, at Trenton Speedway and Atlanta International Raceway.
He scored both wins in the #98 car of Junior Johnson. In the first victory, the #98 was Ford, next time it was a Mercury.
First ever NASCAR's Triple Crown winner
And then the season 1969 came, in which LeeRoy Yarbrough wrote his name in stock car racing history books. The partnership with Junior Johnson resulted in seven victories in the #98 Ford. The first win was at Daytona 500. The second win was at Darlington's Rebel 400 and then he won the World 600 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
One more win at Daytona International Speedway followed in May and then Atlanta. In September, Yarbrough won the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, becoming the first ever driver to won so-called NASCAR's Triple Crown. He added one more win to his account in October, winning the American 500 at North Carolina Motor Speedway. All those wins and a Triple Crown earned him an award as the American Driver of the Year.
Two more attempts at Indianapolis 500
In May 1969, Yarbrough tried again to compete in the Indianapolis 500. Driving the #67 Eagle-Ford for Jim Robbins, his race lasted for 67 before a turbocharger expired. The same problem affected Yarbrough in the 1970 Indianapolis 500, again in a car of Jim Robbins.
In September 1970, Yarbrough participated in the USAC Champ Car race at Ontario Motor Speedway, driving the Brabham-Offy. His last Champ Car attempt was at Trenton Speedway in April 1971, when he finished third in the #42 Olsonite Eagle-Offy. He failed to qualify for the 1971 Indianapolis 500.
Last NASCAR victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway
After a fantastic season in 1969, Yarbrough participated in nineteen NASCAR races in 1970, scoring his last victory in October at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In that race, he was driving the #98 Mercury for Junior Johnson.
In April, he suffered a crash during a test at Texas Motor Speedway. That crash changed his life forever because he had memory problems. One more crash during the practice for Indianapolis 500 made those problems even worst.
Yarbrough was racing until 1972
Despite medical problems, Yarbrough spent two more seasons as a part-time racer in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. In 1971, he participated in six races, four with Junior Johnson and two with other owners. In 1972, he recorded 18 starts for Bill Seifert, scoring five top 5 results. He also participated in one Grand National East Series race.
After he retired from racing in 1973, brain trauma caused many mental problems which culminated with an attempted murder of his mother in March 1980. He was admitted to a mental institution where eventually died in 1984 of the internal bleeding after a fall.
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