William Caleb Yarborough was born on March 27, 1940 in Timmonsville, South Carolina, to a tobacco farmer. Yarborough was the first stock car driver to win three consecutive NASCAR championships, a record that still stands today. Because of his overall record of 83 wins, he's number five on the NASCAR all-time winner's list.
Yarborough attended a race as a youngster, igniting his desire to become a driver. When he was a teenager, he lied about his age in order to become a race car driver, but was discovered. He made his official debut in 1957 at the Southern 500, finishing in 42nd place. In next decade, he would race into the record books.
Yarborough earned his first top-15 finish in 1960 when he ran in the Southern States Fairgrounds. Two years later, he received his first top-10 finish at the Daytona 500 Qualifying Race. Throughout the decade, he slowly worked his way up in the ranks of auto racing, culminating with his first of three victories at the Daytona 500 in 1968.
He continued racing in the 1970s, accumulating victories and setting records. He won a career-high 10 races in 1974, including his third Atlanta 500; nevertheless, he lost the championship by approximately 600 points. When his team was bought by Junior Johnson mid-season, he entered the 1975 racing season without major sponsors, missing three races before finally getting a sponsor. Despite winning three races, he dropped to ninth place in the final standings.
There was an upsurge in his career the following few years. In 1976 and 1977, he won nine races each year, including two NASCAR championships and another Daytona 500. The following year (1978) he won his third consecutive championship and a total of 10 races. In 1979, Yarborough had the privilege of participating in the Daytona 500, the first NASCAR race to appear on television. On-track and off-track drama between he and fellow drivers, Bobby and Donnie Allison, likely helped racing reach its current popularity.
Yarborough continued racing into the 1980s, winning his fourth Atlanta 500 in 1981 and his third Daytona 500 in 1983. He set another record in 1984, becoming the first driver to qualify for the Daytona 500 by reaching 200 miles per hour. He won his final race in the Miller High Life 500 in 1985, as well as the Talladega 500. However, he would continue racing for another three years.
After his career as a race car driver ended, his career as a businessman began. From the later part of the 1980s to early 2000, he was the owner of various driving teams, with a number of victories and defeats. Regrettably, he sold his team in January 2000 and the team eventually faded away from the racing circuit.
Like other racers who share the honor of being the top in the field, Yarborough set the standard for future racers to follow.