It may have happened nearly 60 years ago, but 83-year-old Cale Yarborough probably remembers his wild wreck at the 1965 Southern 500 like it was yesterday.
Most NASCAR drivers go their entire careers without experiencing a wreck of that magnitude. But Darlington Raceway is called "The Track Too Tough to Tame" for a reason, and when Yarborough flipped his No. 27 Ford over the guardrail of the South Carolina track, he found that out the hard way.
Before Cale Yarborough's aerial antics went down on lap 119 of the Cup race, a crash that yielded much more tragic results occurred on lap 3 when Buren Skeen lost control of his Ford going into Turn 3 and was struck on the driver's side by Reb Wickersham's Ford. Wickersham walked away from the wreck uninjured, but Skeen sustained severe internal injuries as a result. He died from his injuries seven days later.
Fast forward 116 laps into the race, and Yarborough would have his own brush with disaster. It happened in Turn 1, when he and Sam McQuagg made contact as Yarborough tried to overtake him for the lead. Before they knew it, they were both sideways and heading straight towards the wall.
While McQuagg ended up sideswiping the guardrail, Yarborough was a little less fortunate and ramped off of McQuagg's car, which sent him into the air and over the wall. On the other side, he sailed down a 40-foot slope, where his destroyed car came to a stop at the bottom. His crew chief and teammates waited for him to come back around on the racetrack, but they never saw him. That's when they knew something was wrong. Fortunately, they soon received word that he was uninjured, and the camera turned to him walking back to the pits.
Yarborough later recalled that he "sailed through the air like an astronaut" that day at Darlington. That's definitely one way to describe, but I don't think you could pay any of NASA's finest to have to go through something like that.
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