A win for Petty, the President and NASCAR

Wed., July 4, 1984 – Richard Petty, NASCAR’s first seven-time premier series champion, recorded his milestone 200th career victory when he beat Cale Yarborough by a fender in the annual Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Petty became the first driver to win in front of a sitting president, Ronald Reagan, who had arrived at the track after the race had begun.

Petty’s 200th victory came 24 years after his first and it was his 943rd career start.

Petty beat Yarborough back to the line with two laps remaining when the yellow flag appeared for an incident involving Doug Heveron. Petty was leading when the caution came out, Yarborough passed Petty going into Turn 3, then Petty pulled up alongside Yarborough in Turn 4 as they sprinted side-by-side to the finish line.

Petty’s 200th win came with team owner Mike Curb, who he had joined following the ’83 season. The legendary driver competed eight more seasons before retirement without another victory.

Yarborough, driving the No. 28 Chevrolet for owner Harry Ranier, had used the slingshot move – waiting until the final lap to draft past the leader – to win multiple races on the series’ biggest tracks, including that season’s Daytona 500.

The final two laps were run under caution; Yarborough mistakenly thought there was only one lap remaining and pulled onto pit road. As a result, he lost one position, falling from second to third in the final rundown. Harry Gant was awarded the runner-up spot.