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Curator's Corner / Exhibits

Cale Yarborough's Three-Peat

Hall of Famers Cale Yarborough and Junior Johnson formed a dominating combination in the mid-1970s.

Cale Yarborough won 10 races and had 23 top-five finishes in 1978. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center/ CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images.

When Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2021) agreed to be guest curator for the Hall’s current Glory Road exhibit, he had a few stipulations: All 18 cars had to be from NASCAR premier series champions and as many as possible had to be actual race cars, not just show cars.

For “Dale Jr.: Glory Road Champions,” Earnhardt also wanted as many multi-championship winners represented as possible.

And Earnhardt’s favorite era of race cars was the mid- to late-1970s, which makes Cale Yarborough’s 1977 Oldsmobile a car that checks all of Earnhardt’s boxes: Yarborough, a multi-time champion, raced this actual car during his third championship season of 1978, which has been verified by a former crew chief, and it’s from the right time period. So it’s a natural that Earnhardt wanted this car for Glory Road.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (r) and Hall of Fame executive director Winston Kelley discuss how Earnhardt selected the 18 cars used for the “Dale Jr.: Glory Road Champions” exhibit. Photo courtesy of Jamey Price.

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Earnhardt’s favorite era of race cars was the mid-to-late-1970s.

— Tom Jensen

This car represents a collaboration between two of the sport’s Hall of Famers: Yarborough (2012) and car owner Junior Johnson (2010) connected midway through the 1974 season, creating a dominant race team in the mid-1970s.

Yarborough, a native of Timmonsville, South Carolina, was tough as nails, while Johnson built some of the fastest cars in the sport out of his shop in Wilkes County, North Carolina.

This 1977 Oldsmobile carried Cale Yarborough to his third NASCAR championship. Photo courtesy of Jamey Price.

Between 1974 and 1980, Yarborough won 45 races driving for Johnson. More importantly, he became the first driver in premier series history to win three consecutive championships, a feat he accomplished from 1976-78.

No one did that before Yarborough did and since then, the only driver to win three in a row is Jimmie Johnson, who won five in a row from 2006-2010.

During his final championship season of 1978, Yarborough won 10 races, with 23 top-five and 24 top-10 finishes to his credit. For the season, Yarborough’s winnings were $623,508.

Jeff Gordon's (24) and Jimmie Johnson's (48) cars are side-by-side on Glory Road.

Curator’s note: The “Dale Jr.: Glory Road Champions” exhibit features 18 NASCAR race cars, all representing past premier series champions. Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty (2010) and Jimmie Johnson, the sport’s seven-time champions, have two cars each in the exhibit. Collectively, the drivers represented on Glory Road have won 46 of the 71 premier series championships through the end of 2019, or roughly 65 percent of the series championships since 1949.

Seven different decades are represented in the exhibit, as are seven different manufacturers: Hudson, Ford, Oldsmobile, Buick, Chevrolet, Pontiac and Plymouth.

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Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen

Tom is the Curatorial Affairs Manager at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. For more than 25 years, he has been part of the NASCAR media industry.