Cale Yarborough, 3-time NASCAR champ, dies at 84

Cale Yarborough, a three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, died Sunday morning. He was 84.

Yarborough had been battling a rare genetic disorder, according to his family.

Yarborough captured the Cup Series titles from 1976-78, making him the lone driver to win three straight NASCAR championships until Jimmie Johnson won five in a row from 2006-10. The two drivers are tied for sixth on the Cup Series’ all-time list with 83 victories.

Yarborough also was a four-time Daytona 500 winner (1968, 1977, 1983, 1984) and five-time Southern 500 champion (1968, 1973, 1974, 1978, 1982).

A South Carolina native who grew up on his family’s farm, he also played college football at Clemson but left the team to pursue a career in racing.

“Cale Yarborough was one of the toughest competitors NASCAR has ever seen,” NASCAR chairman and CEO Jim France said in a statement. “His combination of talent, grit and determination separated Cale from his peers, both on the track and in the record book. He was respected and admired by competitors and fans alike and was as comfortable behind the wheel of a tractor as he was behind the wheel of a stock car. On behalf of the France family and NASCAR, I offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Cale Yarborough.”

Yarborough was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2012.