10 Fun Facts About The Daytona 500 You Might Not Know
The Daytona 500 is the first points race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season and it’s also the biggest event of the year. Nicknamed the “Great American Race,” the event covers 500 miles and is 200 laps long. Richard Petty has the record for the most Daytona 500 victories with seven, while Bobby Allison is the oldest driver to win the race at 50 years old. Here are 10 more interesting facts about the Daytona 500 that you might not already know…
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10) The First Daytona 500
The first Daytona 500 was held in 1959. The finish was so close that it took NASCAR three days to ultimately determine who won the race. Drivers Lee Petty and Johnny Beauchamp were battling for the lead coming off the final turn when they came across another car that was one lap down. The three cars came across the finish line three-wide, with Beauchamp initially being declared winner, but that decision was overturned three days later when photos revealed Petty crossed the finish line first and he was named the official winner.
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9) The Brawl
The 1979 Daytona 500 was the first time the “Great American Race” was broadcast live. Fans were treated to a excellent finish, as well as an entertaining fist fight between drivers Cale Yarborough and the Allison brothers. Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough were competing for the win on the final lap when the two collided and crashed, which gave the victory to Richard Petty. Following the collision, Yarborough and Allison both got out of their cars and engaged in a fist fight; Donnie’s brother Bobby even joined in to help his sibling.
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8) Pearson vs Petty
In 1976, two of NASCAR’s most dominant drivers went head-to-head to determine the winner of that year’s Daytona 500. David Pearson and Richard Petty were side-by-side in the final turn when Petty’s car clipped Pearson’s, which sent both of their vehicles spinning. Petty’s automobile stalled following the wreck, but Pearson was able to restart his racecar and slowly cruised across the finish line to pick up the victory.
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7) Waltrip Does the ‘Ickey Shuffle’
After earning his only career Daytona 500 victory in 1989, three-time NASCAR champion Darrell Waltrip exited his racecar and performed the “Ickey Shuffle” dance in victory lane before spiking his helmet like it was a football. Waltrip won the race in the No. 17 racecar, on the 17th of February, in his 17th attempt at winning the event.
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6) Ned Cheers On Dale
Dale Jarrett only had one career victory back in 1993 when he was able to drive past Dale Earnhardt Sr. in the final laps to win the “Great American Race.” What made this race truly unique was the fact that Jarrett’s father, Ned, was the lead broadcaster for the race and openly cheered for his son in the closing laps.
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5) Gordon Becomes Youngest Winner
Jeff Gordon celebrated the first of three career Daytona 500 victories in 1997 when he won the race at just 26 years old, which was a record for the youngest winner at the time. Trevor Bayne later broke Gordon’s record in 2011 when he won the race at just 20 years of age. The 1997 race is also well-known for a wreck that saw Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s car flip upside-down, but Earnhardt– seeing the wheels were still attached to the car–asked that it be taken off the tow truck and he finished the race five laps down.
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4) Earnhardt Sr. Finally Wins
While the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. is tied for the all-time NASCAR lead with seven career championships, it took him 20 years before he won his first and only Daytona 500 in 1998. It was a very popular victory, as Earnhardt was greeted by and shook the hand of seemingly every member of NASCAR before he celebrated the win in victory lane.
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If the 1998 race was the most popular Daytona 500 in history, then the 2001 event was the least-liked due to the crash that took the life of Dale Earnhardt Sr. The legendary driver’s death led to major safety changes in NASCAR such as the adoption of Safer barriers, the HANS Device, and the creation of the Car of Tomorrow. The Chevy racecar owned by Earnhardt Sr. and driven by Michael Waltrip actually won the 2001 race.
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2) Danica Patrick Captures Pole
Danica Patrick became the first female NASCAR driver to win the pole position for the Daytona 500 in 2013. In addition, Patrick’s eighth-place finish was the best-ever by a female driver. Jimmie Johnson ultimately won that year’s race to pick up his second career Daytona 500 victory.
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1) 2015 Daytona 500
Ford driver Joey Logano won the 57th annual Daytona 500 in 2015. The win gave his team owner Roger Penske his second career Daytona 500 victory. Logano will attempt to defend his victory on February 21st in the 58th annual Daytona 500.
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