MRN Flashback: 1984 Firecracker 400

Richard Petty

Motor Racing Network announcer Ned Jarrett, U.S. President Ronald Reagan and 1984 Firecracker 400 winner Richard Petty. (Photo: ISC Archives)

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On July 4, 1984, Daytona International Speedway hosted a presidential visit that was truly fit for a “King.”

With President Ronald Reagan in attendance, Richard Petty nipped Cale Yarborough to secure his long-awaited 200th career victory.

As the future Hall of Famers roared through Turn 4 and approached the flag stand nose-to-tail … Petty leading, Yarborough running second … it was the yellow flag – not the checkered flag – that was waving.

Doug Heveron’s accident in Turn 1 brought out the race’s final caution less than four laps from the finish, and both Petty and Yarborough knew there would not be time to clean up the debris and restart under green before the laps ran out.

Yarborough had drafted past Petty on the backstretch, but the No. 43 Pontiac swung back in front and won the race back to the start-finish line. Petty’s total of 200 wins still stands as NASCAR’s all-time record.

“When Cale was following me on that last green-flag lap, I didn’t have the foggiest idea what I was going to do,” Petty said. “It was a circumstance where he would act and I’d react. We touched two or three times but not enough to upset either car.”

After the race, President Reagan congratulated both drivers. Joining Petty and Yarborough in the top five were Harry Gant, Bobby Allison and Benny Parsons. Yarborough, who started from the pole, led a race-high 79 laps. Petty led 53 trips around Daytona’s 2.5-mile oval including the final 33.

It was the last win of Petty’s storied career that ended with retirement in 1992. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in May 2010 as part of the inaugural class.

Terry Labonte finished seventh on that historic day at Daytona and would go on to win the 1984 Cup Series championship.

Visit MotorRacingNetwork.com on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. (ET) to hear the complete broadcast of the 1984 Firecracker 400 from Daytona International Speedway, anchored by Barney Hall and Mike Joy. Motor Racing Network – “The Voice of NASCAR” – will feature a classic race broadcast each week on “Throwback Thursday” throughout the 2013 season at MotorRacingNetwork.com.

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