Has A NASCAR Driver Led Every Lap Before?
A NASCAR driver leading every lap in a race is an incredible feat. It would be comparable to a pitcher in baseball pitching a perfect game. It is a totally dominant position, not allowing any room for error. So has this ever happened in the modern history of the sport? The answer is not only has this happened once, but three times. This feat was accomplished twice by Cale Yarborough, once in 1973, and once in 1978. The most recent instance of this accomplishment was by Jeff Burton, in 2000. This achievement is the pinnacle of NASCAR driving dominance, as leading an entire race, including hundreds of laps, is essentially a perfect race with no flaws.
Cale Yarborough may have accomplished such a rare and impressive feat twice, but it is not all he's known for. Yarborough actually also has many other records and accomplishments throughout a very successful NASCAR career. Another impressive accomplishment that also only two NASCAR drivers have accomplished is winning three championships in a row, and Yarborough has accomplished that as well. He has an impressive 83 career wins. This puts him tied for the 6th most wins of all time, not to mention his winning percentage puts him at 9th of all time.
His first instance of leading every lap in a race, also the first time this had ever happened, occured in Bristol in 1973. Not only did he lead every lap, but he did it against two Hall of Fame drivers, Richard Petty and Bobby Allison, and completely dominated the race. Another interesting fact about this race was that it was completed over a two week period, as weather problems during the first day caused the rest of the race to be postponed. The second time this feat was accomplished by Yarborough was in Nashville in 1978. This time, he led all 420 laps of the race at the Fairgrounds Speedway, compared to all 500 in Bristol. Both of these performances are included on the NASCAR website under the list of the most dominant driving performances.
Jeff Burton was the most recent NASCAR driver to lead every lap in a race. He did this in the 2000 Dura Lube 300. This race took place at the New Hampshire International Speedway, located in Loudon, New Hampshire. He took the lead over pole-sitter Bobby Labonte as early as the first turn of the race, and he never looked back. Jeff Burton had a very successful Nascar career, with 21 total career victories under his belt. NASCAR driving is a family matter with him, as not only did he race in NASCAR, but so did his son, Harrison Burton, as well as his brother and nephew, Ward and Jeb Burton respectively.
Why Is This Impressive?
If you're a NASCAR fan, the significance of this achievement is not lost with you. If you are not a follower of the sport, you might be wondering what the big deal is, or how hard could it really be? It is estimated using physics calculations that drivers experience almost double the force of gravity on their body at top speeds. The faster one goes, the more force is exerted on the driver. This is a lot of pressure on the driver, not to mention the driver must endure this pressure for up to three hours. This takes incredible athletic ability, as well as focus and concentration. This also requires a strong will, as enduring these forceful pressures for such an extended period of time must be taxing on the mind. Then, to not only maintain the concentration, focus, will, and physical strength to endure this for an entire race, but to also maintain the lead in a race for its entirety is an incredible task.
Impact On NASCAR History
Every sport is always evolving, changing with the times. It makes sense that NASCAR would be the same, with the tracks and cars continuously being upgraded and adjusted to provide the maximum entertainment to the spectators, competitiveness for the drivers, and safety for everybody's sake. Due to this, nowadays it would be almost impossible due to the lack of difference in performance of the cars to dominate to the degrees that Cale Yarborough and Jeff Burton achieved during their respective successful careers within the sport. This is why these achievements are so special, they aren't likely to ever be replicated again. These are historical landmarks in the sport of NASCAR, artifacts and relics from the past. They were like shooting stars, fleeting but awe-inspiring. Jeff Burton and Cale Yarborough may have had otherwise successful and impressive NASCAR careers, but this achievement cements their place as NASCAR legends.