Richard Petty won his 200th and final NASCAR Premier Series race at Daytona International Speedway and he certainly picked the right time to do it.
Petty won what was then known as the Firecracker 400 on July 4, 1984, outdragging fellow NASCAR Hall of Fame member Cale Yarborough to the start-finish line just as the caution flag came out with two laps to go.
Yarbrough had passed Petty on the backstretch of the final green-flag lap, but Petty went beneath Yarborough at the exit of Turn 4 to make the race-winning pass.
"When Cale was following me on that last green-flag lap, I didn’t have the foggiest idea what I was going to do," Petty said. "It was a circumstance where he would act and I’d react. We touched two or three times but not enough to upset either car."
But the big news was that the race was attended by President Ronald Reagan, the first time a sitting U.S. President ever attended a live NASCAR race.
Reagan gave the command to start engines from Air Force One, then landed at the airport next to the track and attended the race.
After the race was over, Petty skipped Victory Lane and went to the press box to meet President Reagan, who stayed long enough to have a picnic with the drivers and teams. On the menu that day was Kentucky Fried Chicken.
The presence of Reagan insured national headlines and combined with Petty’s 200th victory, it made for a day that would live in NASCAR history forever.