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Daytona 500

The Daytona 500 is a 200-lap, long NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race held annually at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. It is one of four restrictor plate races on the Cup schedule. In 2008, the race celebrated its 50th running.

The Daytona 500 is regarded by many as the most important and prestigious race on the NASCAR calendar, carrying by far the largest purse. Championship points awarded are equal to that of any other Sprint Cup race. It is also NASCAR's first race of the year; this phenomenon is virtually unique in sports, which tend to have championships or other major events at the end of the season rather than the start. Since 1995, U.S. television ratings for the Daytona 500 have been the highest for any auto race of the year, surpassing the traditional leader, the Indianapolis 500 which in turn greatly surpasses the Daytona 500 in in-track attendance and international viewing. The 2006 Daytona 500 attracted the sixth largest average live global TV audience of any sporting event that year with 20 million viewers.

The event serves as the final event of Speedweeks and is known as "The Great American Race" and the "Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing." It is held the third or second Sunday in February, and since 1971, has been loosely associated with Presidents Day weekend.

The winner of the Daytona 500 is presented with the Harley J. Earl Trophy in Victory Lane, and the winning car is displayed, in race-winning condition, for one year at Daytona 500 Experience, a museum and gallery adjacent to Daytona International Speedway.

Memorable Daytona 500s

The race is the direct successor of shorter races held on Daytona Beach. This long square was partially on the sand and also on the highway near the beach. Earlier events featured 200 mile (320 km) races with stock cars. These cars were equipped with wipers and radiators to combat the sand they faced. Eventually, the 500 was held and has been held at Daytona International Speedway since its inaugural run in 1959. By 1961, it began to be referred to by its commonly known moniker, the "Daytona 500.

1959-1969

Lee Petty, patriarch of the racing family, won the 1959 Daytona 500 on February 22, 1959, defeating Johnny Beauchamp in a highly unusual manner. Petty and Beauchamp were lapping Joe Weatherly at the finish, when officials initially called Beauchamp the winner as the three cars crossed the line. After reviewing photographs and film of the finish for three days, the call was reversed, and Petty was awarded the win.

In 1960, Robert "Junior" Johnson won, despite running a slower, year-old car. He made use of the draft, then a little-understood phenomenon, to keep up with the leaders.

After three years of being the best driver never to win the Daytona 500, Edward "Fireball" Roberts came to the 1962 edition race of the 500 on a hot roll, he won the American Challenge for winners of 1961 NASCAR events, the pole position for the 500, and the Twin-100 mile qualifier. He dominated the race, leading 144 of the 200 laps and finally won his first (and ultimately only) Daytona 500.

In 1963, it was DeWayne "Tiny" Lund who took the victory for the Wood Brothers, however the real drama began a couple weeks before the race when Lund helped pull 1961 winner Marvin Panch from a burning sportscar at a considerable risk to himself. As a result of his heroism, the Wood Brothers asked Lund to replace Panch in the 500 and Lund took the car to the winner's circle.

Driving a potent Plymouth with the new Hemi engine, Richard Petty led 184 of the 200 laps to win the 1964 Daytona 500 going away. Plymouths ran 1-2-3 at the finish. The triumph was Petty's first on a super-speedway.

The first rain-shortened Daytona 500 was the 1965 event. Leader Marvin Panch and Fred Lorenzen made contact on Lap 129, as rain began to fall; Panch spun out, and Lorenzen won when the race was finally called on Lap 133. The 1966 500, won by Richard Petty, was also shortened, to 198 laps, due to rain.

1967 saw Mario Andretti dominate the race. He led 112 of the 200 laps including the last 33 laps to capture his only NASCAR Grand National win.

The 1968 race saw a duel involving Cale Yarborough and LeeRoy Yarbrough. For much of the day, both drivers traded the lead. With 5 laps to go, Yarborough made a successful slingshot pass on the third turn to take the lead from Yarbrough and never look back as he won his first Daytona 500 by 1.3 seconds. LeeRoy Yarbrough would inflict the same treatment on Charlie Glotzbach the next year, winning the 1969 Daytona 500 on the last lap.

1970-1979

The 1970s open with Cale Yarborough setting the pace as he qualified with a 194.015 mph, and was on the pole. Fate played a major role in the 1970 race, claiming one driver after another as soon as the green flag fell. Richard Petty, then Yarborough who dropped out after leading 26 of the first 31 laps, Donnie Allison, and A.J. Foyt also dropped out of the race. Later in the race, Pete Hamilton an unknown driver prior to this race, was challenging for the lead with the likes of Charlie Glotzbach and David Pearson. On lap 192, Hamilton passed Pearson for the lead, and although Pearson tried valiantly to gain the lead, it was Hamilton who took the checkered flag in front of then the largest crowd to ever seen the Daytona 500 (an estimated 103,800). It was the first of 4 victories Hamilton would have in his brief NASCAR career.

The 1973 race was a classic 2-car race involving Petty and Buddy Baker. In the first 150 laps of the race, Baker led for 118 of the 150 laps, but lurking was Petty, who avoided engine problems by other cars and a car crash on lap 155. After both Petty and Baker make pit stops with 10 laps to go, Petty had a 4.4 second lap, but Baker was closing in lap by lap. By Lap 195, the lead was only 2.5 seconds, but then Baker's engine blew, it was over for him as Petty coasted to his 4th Daytona 500 victory.

During the start of the 1974 NASCAR season, many races had their distance cut ten percent in response to the energy crisis of the year. As a result, the 1974 Daytona 500, won by Richard Petty (his second straight, making him the first driver ever to do it), was shortened to 180 laps (450 miles), as symbolically, the race "started" on Lap 21. The Twin 125 qualifying races were also shortened to 45 laps (112.5 miles).

In 1975, it appeared David Pearson was on his way to his first Daytona 500 victory as he built a sizable lead on second place Benny Parsons late in the race. However, Richard Petty, who was several laps behind the leaders, and Parsons hooked up in a draft and began reeling in Pearson who was slowed by lapped traffic. The key moment of the race occurred two laps from the end when contact with a backmarker sent Pearson spinning on the backstretch. Parsons avoided the accident and went on to take the win.

In the 1976 500, Richard Petty was leading on the last lap when he was passed on the backstretch by David Pearson. Petty tried to turn under Pearson coming off the final corner, but didn't clear Pearson. The contact caused the drivers to spin in to the grass in the infield just short of the finish line. Petty's car didn't start, but Pearson was able to keep his car running and limp over the finish line for the win. Many fans consider this finish to be the greatest in the history of NASCAR.

For Bobby Allison, The Daytona 500 prior to the 1978 race was not kind to him, in fact he came to the race with a 67-race winless streak but with 11 laps remaining, he pushed his Bud Moore Ford around Buddy Baker to take the lead and never look back as he captured his first Daytona 500 win.

The 1979 Daytona 500 was the first 500-mile race to be broadcast live on national television. (The Indianapolis 500 was only broadcast on tape delay that evening in this era; most races were broadcast only through the final quarter to half of the race, as was the procedure for ABC's Championship Auto Racing broadcasts; with the new CBS contract, the network and NASCAR agreed to a full live broadcast.) That telecast introduced in-car and low-level track-side cameras, which has now become standard in all sorts of automotive racing broadcasts. A final lap crash and subsequent fight between leaders Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison (along with Donnie's brother Bobby Allison) brought national (if unwelcome) publicity to NASCAR, with the added emphasis of a snowstorm that bogged down much of the northeastern part of the United States. Donnie Allison was leading the race on the final lap with Yarborough drafting him tightly. As Yarborough attempted a slingshot pass at the end of the backstretch, Allison attempted to block him. Yarborough refused to give ground and as he pulled alongside Allison, his left side tires left the pavement and went into the wet and muddy infield grass. Yarborough lost control of his car and contacted Allison's car halfway down the backstretch. As both drivers tried to regain control, their cars made contact several more times before finally locking together and crashing into the outside wall in turn three. After the cars settled in the grass, Donnie Allison and Yarborough began to argue. After they had talked it out, Bobby Allison, who was lapped at that point, pulled over, began defending his brother, and a fight broke out. Richard Petty, who was over half a lap behind at the time, went on to win; with the brawl in the infield, the television audience scarcely noticed. The story was the talk of the water cooler the next day, even making the front page of The New York Times Sports section. NASCAR, as a national sport, had finally arrived after years of moonshine runners.

1980-1989

Buddy Baker started the decade by winning the fastest Daytona 500 in history, at 177.602 mph (285.809 km/h).

The 1981 event saw Richard Petty take an amazing gamble to win his 7th Daytona 500. With 24 laps to go, Petty came to the pits for his final scheduled pit stop, but instead of changing tires, only took on fuel. It worked well as Petty became the first driver to win the Daytona 500 in three different decades.

In 1983, Cale Yarborough was the first driver to run a qualifying lap over 200 mph (320 km/h) at Daytona in his #28 Hardees Chevrolet Monte Carlo. However, on his second of two qualifying laps, Yarborough crashed and flipped his car in turn four. The car had to be withdrawn, and the lap did not count. Despite the crash, Yarborough drove a back-up car (a Pontiac LeMans) to victory, taking the lead from Buddy Baker on the last lap with a duplicate of the pass he attempted on Donnie Allison in 1979. A year later in 1984, Yarborough completed a lap of 201.848 mph (324.828 km/h), officially breaking the 200 mph barrier at Daytona. He won the race for the second year in a row, and fourth time in his career, with the identical last-lap pass, this time victimizing Darrell Waltrip.

In 1987, Bill Elliott qualified for the pole position at an all-time Daytona record of 210.364 mph (338.532 km/h). He had already won convincingly in the 1985 race, and won his second Daytona 500 in 1987 in dominating fashion.

Sandwiched between Elliott's wins, was a classic 1986 race that came down to the final 70 laps of the race (the last 70 were run under green). It was a 2-car race involving Dale Earnhardt and Geoff Bodine. Earnhardt lead for 10 laps while Bodine lead for 60. With 3 laps to go, Earnhardt was forced to make a pit stop for a "splash 'n go". However, as Earnhardt left the pits he burned a piston, allowing Bodine to cruise to victory by 11.26 seconds. The 1988 Daytona 500 was the first race requiring the use of new restrictor plates, mandated because it was felt the speeds were getting too high at the super-speedways, as demonstrated at Bobby Allison's crash at Talladega in 1987. Before the race, there was much uncertainty about how well these would work. In the 1988 500, Bobby Allison beat his son Davey Allison to the finish line for the win; father and son celebrated together in Victory Lane. Bobby Allison thus became the oldest driver to win the Daytona 500. The race is also remembered for Richard Petty's wild accident on lap 106. Petty spun, got airborne and tumbled along a large section of catch fence before his car came to a stop. The car was then torn nearly in half from hits by A. J. Foyt and Brett Bodine. Petty escaped without serious injury.

The 1989 event was won by Darrell Waltrip, his first Daytona 500 victory after 17 attempts. (Coincidentally, the car he drove to victory, the Tide Ride, wore number 17.) Fans loudly cheered the child-like exuberance of Waltrip's victory celebration. As he was being interviewed by CBS pit reporter Mike Joy, Waltrip shouted, "I won the Daytona 500! I won the Daytona 500!" Shortly after, an exuberant Waltrip performed an "Ickey Shuffle" dance in Victory Lane.

1990-1999

After years of trying to win it, Dale Earnhardt appeared headed for certain victory in the 1990 Daytona 500 until a series of events in the closing laps. On lap 193 Geoff Bodine spun in the first turn, causing the third and final caution of the race. Everyone pitted except Derrike Cope, who stayed out. On the lap 195 restart, Earnhardt retook and held the lead, only to puncture a tire when he drove over a piece of metal bell housing from the failed engine of Rick Wilson's car on Lap 199. As Earnhardt's damaged car slowed, Cope drove past and earned his first Winston Cup (now Sprint Cup) victory. It was the first of two victories for the relatively unknown Cope in the 1990 season. In an ironic twist, the local CBS affiliate of Cope, who at the time was a resident of the Seattle suburb of Spanaway, opted to pre-empt the race to telecast a Seattle Supersonics basketball game, and the race was delayed until 3 PM US PST because of the pre-emption, following a CBS NBA telecast.

Earnhardt didn't fare better in the 1991 race as Ernie Irvan passed Earnhardt with six laps to go to score an upset win. Earnahrdt spun out with two laps remaining and took out Davey Allison and Kyle Petty. Irvan cruised on the final lap as the race ended under the caution flag.

In 1992, Davey Allison dominated en route to his only Daytona 500 victory. He avoided the "Big One" on lap 92 and went on to lead the final 102 laps.

In 1993, Jeff Gordon made his first 500 start. He made quite a splash, finishing in the top five. On lap 170, trying to avoid the spinning cars of Michael Waltrip and Derrick Cope, Rusty Wallace's Pontiac lost control and cart-wheeled several times down the backstretch grass. With two laps to go and Dale Earnhardt leading, Dale Jarrett's Chevrolet was running third going into turn three. Using a push from fourth place Geoff Bodine, Jarrett went under Jeff Gordon for second and pulled even with the leader Earnhardt. They bumped and that sent the, at that time, 5 time Winston Cup Champion sliding up the track and Jarrett made the pass. In the broadcast booth, his father and former Cup Champion Ned Jarrett became his son's biggest fan on national TV. It was the fourth time Earnhardt had been leading the 500 with less than ten laps to go, but failed to win.

In 1994, there were some changes on the Cup circuit for the 500. After the deaths of Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki, some drivers changed teams. Ernie Irvan bought his way out of the number 4 Kodak Chevy to go drive Allison's old ride, the 28 Havoline Ford. Replacing Irvan was Sterling Marlin. Geoff Bodine bought Alan Kulwicki's team and drove the number seven Exide Batteries Ford. Between father Coo Coo and son Sterling, the Marlin family was 0-for-443 in Winston Cup starts heading into the 36th annual Daytona 500. Driving on just hope, Marlin was able to run the final 59 laps on his tank of fuel to win it. Several other drivers also gambled on gas but weren't able to get the same mileage as Marlin. Lake Speed, running fifth at the time, ran out with three laps left. Mark Martin was third before his tank went dry with two laps to go. Irvan, the 1991 winner, drove the number 4 Chevrolet the previous season ironically finished second, .19 seconds behind his former ride.

In 1995, Sterling Marlin amazingly became the first person to win back-to-back 500s since Cale Yarborough. But this year he won on sheer horsepower and track position and not on a fuel gamble. On he final caution, Marlin's crew chief, Tony Glover, kept Marlin on the track since there were 21 cars on the lead lap at the finish. Even on old tires, he was able to fend off the charging Dale Earnhardt, who went from 14th to second on fresh tires following the final restart with 10 laps to go. Earnhardt quickly moved past everyone but Marlin, locking onto the leader's back bumper by lap 197. Needing help to get around Marlin on the final lap, Earnhardt looked for third place Mark Martin. But Martin's car was on worn tires and he couldn't provide the needed push.

In 1996, Dale Jarrett won his second Daytona 500 in 4 years driving the number 88 Ford Quality Care Ford for Robert Yates Racing. In 1993 he drove the number 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing.

In 1997, Jeff Gordon become the youngest driver to win the Daytona 500. Gordon and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates Terry Labonte and Ricky Craven ganged up on race leader Bill Elliott during the final ten laps. The race ended under the caution flag, as the teammates grabbed a 1-2-3 finish. In 1998, Dale Earnhardt finally won the Daytona 500 after 20 years of trying. Though Earnhardt had usually been a strong competitor in the Daytona 500, mechanical problems, crashes or bad luck had prevented him from winning the race. In 1998, however, Earnhardt was leading when Lake Speed and John Andretti made contact on Lap 198, causing the race to end under caution. After his victory, a joyous Earnhardt drove slowly down pit road, where members of other race teams had lined up to give him handshakes and high-fives. The victory was widely celebrated, even by people who weren't his fans, and was a defining moment in Earnhardt's career and legacy.

In 1999, Jeff Gordon grabbed his second Daytona 500 win using drafting help from Dale Earnhardt to pull off a daring three-wide pass on Rusty Wallace and Mike Skinner with 10 laps remaining. Gordon then managed to hold off a determined Earnhardt to earn the victory.

2000-2007

The 2000 race almost produced another upset winner as Johnny Benson led the late stages of the event, until succumbing to polesitter Dale Jarrett on a restart with only four laps remaining. Jarrett then managed to hold off the rest of the field to grab his third Daytona 500 victory.

On the last turn of the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt was killed in a crash. This was the second restrictor-plate race run under a rules package (discontinued after the 2001 season) that included a small strip atop the car's roof and a small lip on the rear spoiler. Though it was meant to give power back to the drivers and help produce more lead changes, critics charged that it created dangerous racing conditions, as cars raced three or more wide for long stretches of the race, and compared to past set ups, the cars raced much closer together. An 18-car crash on lap 173, which sent Tony Stewart's car flying end-over-end, caused the race to be red-flagged (stopped) while the track was made safe. Michael Waltrip, making his first start for Dale Earnhardt, Inc., won the race, with his teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finishing second, in cars that were both owned by Dale Earnhardt, who had been running third prior to his fatal crash in Turn 4. The 2001 Daytona 500 was also the first NASCAR Cup points race to be televised by FOX which covered the other major Cup events during Speedweeks, as well as the previous day's Busch Series (now called the Nationwide Series) race. Fox's commentators and reporters included Darrell Waltrip, Michael's brother, and Larry McReynolds, who had been Dale Earnhardt's crew chief at the 1998 Daytona 500.

Sterling Marlin was battling Jeff Gordon for the lead of the 2002 Daytona 500 when they made contact. Gordon spun while a multi-car crash broke out behind them. NASCAR red-flagged the race so it could be raced to completion, and stopped the field on the backstretch. Marlin had been told the right front fender on his car had been knocked into the right front tire, and jumped out of the car to pull the fender away from the tire. NASCAR officials in the safety vehicle immediately jumped out and stopped him. Since no one is allowed to work on a car during red-flag conditions, Marlin was sent to the back of the field, giving Ward Burton the win.

Michael Waltrip won the 2003 race when it was shortened to 109 laps due to rain. The following year, Dale Earnhardt Jr. earned one of the most memorable victories in recent memory. Late in the race, Dale made a daring move without drafting help going into Turn 3 to get by Tony Stewart. The win came six years to the date after his father won the event.

Changes to the Daytona 500 meant the race could run into the dusk, with engines starting at 2:40 PM, and the green flag waving around 2:55 PM, meaning the race would finish under the lights as darkness fell at the finish. In 2005, Jeff Gordon won his third Daytona 500 in the first instance of NASCAR using the green-white-checker finish rule in the 500. Jimmie Johnson took the honors in 2006, also under a nighttime green-white-checker finish. Johnson won the race in a year that would see him win the Nextel Cup Championship.

The 2007 race, held exactly six years to the day of Dale Earnhardt's death, was the first time Toyota, a foreign name plate car, entered the Daytona 500. Two of the four qualifying Toyotas completed the race, with Dale Jarrett finishing 23rd and Michael Waltrip finishing 30th. Tony Stewart led for a good part of the race, but was taken out in a late crash with Kurt Busch. Many fans brought up the fact that the wreck was strangely similar to the one that claimed Dale Earnhardt. (Neither Stewart nor Busch were injured in the crash.)

At the end, Mark Martin was leading for the last 26 laps. A wreck in the final five laps forced a race stoppage. In a green-white-checker finish, Kevin Harvick, driving for the team Earnhardt made famous (with Earnhardt's #3 replaced by the #29) was running fifth with half a lap to go, but picked up a push from Matt Kenseth and rocketed forward to draw even with Martin as they rounded turn 3. As a huge wreck erupted behind them, Martin and Harvick drag-raced to the checkered flag with Harvick claiming victory by .02 seconds, the closest since the inaugural race in 1959. Most of the rest of the field crashed across the finish line: one car, the Jack Daniels #07 driven by Harvick's RCR teammate Clint Bowyer, flipped on its top and caught fire after colliding with another car. Bowyer's momentum carried him over the line, upside-down and in flames, for an 18th place finish. The car then righted itself in the infield grass and Bowyer alertly exited the burning vehicle to walk away unharmed. Harvick tied Benny Parsons and Ward Burton for the record of the fewest laps led by a race winner, as all three led only four laps. Harvick also broke the record by winning from the 34th starting position.

The newest Cup driver to Roush Fenway Racing, David Ragan, would also surprise many by finishing 5th in his debut superspeedway race. Former F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya would make his 2nd NASCAR start at Daytona, although he did not have a stellar performance like his ARCA debut where he finished 3rd. He would finish in the 19th position after starting 36th from his Gatorade Duel finish. Mike Wallace would also be a surprise by finishing 4th.

2008 Race: The 50th Running

The 2008 Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing marked the 50th running of "The Great American Race", run on Sunday, February 17, 2008, celebrating the Golden Anniversary of the first race run in 1959. The race was the first Daytona 500 run using NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow, which was introduced in 2007, and became standard as of 2008. The race also marked the first race under the "Sprint Cup" banner, following the merger of Sprint with NEXTEL in 2005.

Many events and personalities were involved in the special running of the race. Activities began in March 2007 with a “Celebrity Tickets for Charity” competition, where the design of the most sought-after ticket in motorsports history was chosen from submissions provided by celebrities of which the original art were auctioned off for the benefit of the Jeff Gordon Foundation, with fans having a voice in the decision. They chose ten designs - four of them from past race winners - and a blue ribbon panel made up of NASCAR's family selected comedian/game show host Jeff Foxworthy's design as the winner. The pace car was driven by 1960 race winner (and former owner) Junior Johnson and seven-time winner Richard Petty waved the green flag to start the race. As many as 24 past champions gave the command to start the engines for the race as the Grand Marshals for this event.

The first 150 laps were mostly caution free, with only two yellow flags thrown for debris. Most of the drivers seemed content to fall in line and let the beginning of the race play itself out. The final fifty laps saw Jeff Gordon go to the garage for suspension failure, but able to return and finish the race 14 laps down. The final twenty laps were very exciting, with three cautions for accidents. When the race was restarted for the final time on lap 197, Tony Stewart quickly stormed past Jeff Burton into the lead. On the final lap down the back straightaway, Stewart dove to the bottom to pick up drafting help from his teammate Kyle Busch, who had led most of the race. This move proved to be a disaster as Ryan Newman, with drafting help from teammate Kurt Busch, surged to the front and took the checkered flag as the winner of the 2008 50th Anniversary Daytona 500. In all, 32 cars finished on the lead lap in the first race at Daytona in the new car used by NASCAR. As the race winner, Ryan Newman took home $1,506,040.00 while last-place finisher Kenny Wallace won $256,735.00.

The top five and their manufacturer:

1. Ryan Newman Dodge
2. Kurt Busch Dodge
3. Tony Stewart Toyota
4. Kyle Busch Toyota
5. Reed Sorenson Dodge

Qualifying procedure

Qualifying is unique at Daytona for the 500. Some teams must race their way into the Daytona 500 field. However, since 2005, all exempt teams (the top 35 teams of the previous year in owner points) are guaranteed a spot in the Daytona 500. The first row is set by one round of qualifying, normally held one week before the race. (Prior to 2003, this was two rounds; prior to 2001, it was three.) The remainder of the field is set by a pair of qualifying races (these were 100 miles from 1959-1967; 125 miles from 1969-2004; and 150 miles, with two-lap overtime if necessary, beginning in 2005. These races were not held in 1968 because of rain). The top two drivers from the qualifying races that are not in the top 35 in owner points are given spots on the field, and the rest is set by the finishing order of the duels, with guaranteed spots to those in the top 35. The remaining spots, 40 to 43 are filled by top qualifying times of those not already in the field from the qualifying race. If there is a previous NASCAR Champion without a spot, he will get one of those four spots, otherwise, the fourth fastest car is added to the field.

Prior to 2005, after the top two cars were set, the top 14 cars in the qualifying races advanced to the field, and then between six (1998-2003), eight (1995-97, 2004), or ten (until 1994) fastest cars which did not advance from the qualifying race were added, and, since the mid-1980s, between two and seven cars were added by previous year's points performance and or championship.

Television

The Daytona 500 was the first 500-mile auto race to be televised live flag-to-flag on network television when CBS aired it in 1979, continuing to air until 2000. From 2001 to 2006, the race alternated between FOX and NBC under the terms of a six-year, $2.48 billion NASCAR television contract. Starting in 2007, FOX became the exclusive home of the Daytona 500 under the terms of NASCAR's new television package.

A byproduct of both the track's 1998 lighting and the 2001 television package has been later start times. The race started at 12:15 p.m. (US EST) from 1979 until 2000. The start time was moved to 2:30 p.m. for the convenience of west coast viewers. The 2005 race ended at sunset for the first time in its history, and the 2006 race ended well after sunset. The changing track conditions caused by the onset of darkness in the closing laps force the crew chiefs to predict the critical car setup adjustments needed for their final pit stop. The 2007 race ended at night, at 7:07 PM US EST.

In 1986, the Daytona 500 paid tribute to astronauts who died in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and many cars carried a decal in memory of the STS-51-L crew. Seventeen years later, in 2003, a similar tribute was paid to the astronauts who died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. All cars carried a decal in memory of the STS-107 crew.

The television ratings for the Daytona 500 have surpassed those of the larger Indianapolis 500(which greatly surpasses the Daytona 500 in in-track attendance) since 1995, even though the 1995 race was available in fewer homes than in the past, CBS had lost affiliates in major markets (including Atlanta, Georgia, a market where two Sprint Cup races are run) as a result of realignment in the wake of FOX landing the NFL, and was actually not available in a NASCAR Nationwide Series market, Milwaukee, Wisconsin and their new CBS affiliate, WDJT, was not available to some cable subscribers.

The 2009 Daytona 500 will be the last major sporting event to be broadcast before the conversion from analog to digital television scheduled to begin on February 17, 2009.

List of Daytona 500 winners

For NASCAR Grand National winners at Daytona from 1949-1958, see Daytona Beach & Road Course
Year Date Driver (# of 500s won) Car
#
Car Make Start Laps Led
(of 200)
Winner's
prize
Average
Speed (mph)
Entrant
1959 February 22 Lee Petty 42 Oldsmobile 15th 38 $19,050 135.521 Petty Enterprises
1960 February 24 Robert G. "Junior" Johnson 27 Chevrolet 9th 67 $19,600 124.740 John Masoni
1961 February 26 Marvin Panch 20 Pontiac 4th 13 $21,050 149.601 Smokey Yunick
1962 February 18 Edward G. "Fireball" Roberts 22 Pontiac Pole 144 $24,190 152.529 Jim Stephens
1963 February 24 DeWayne L. "Tiny" Lund 21 Ford 12th 127 $24,550 151.566 Wood Brothers Racing
1964 February 23 Richard Petty 43 Plymouth 2nd 184 $33,300 154.334 Petty Enterprises (2)
1965 February 14 Fred Lorenzen 28 Ford 4th 25 $27,100 141.539* Holman-Moody
1966 February 27 Richard Petty (2) 43 Plymouth Pole 108 (of 198) $28,150 160.927* Petty Enterprises (3)
1967 February 26 Mario Andretti† 11 Ford 12th 112 $48,900 146.926 Holman-Moody (2)
1968 February 25 Cale Yarborough 21 Mercury Pole 76 $47,250 143.251 Wood Brothers Racing (2)
1969 February 23 LeeRoy Yarbrough 98 Ford 19th 18 $38,950 157.950 Junior Johnson
1970 February 22 Pete Hamilton 40 Plymouth 9th 13 $44,850 149.601 Petty Enterprises (4)
1971 February 14 Richard Petty (3) 43 Plymouth 5th 70 $45,450 144.462 Petty Enterprises (5)
1972 February 20 A.J. Foyt 21 Mercury 2nd 167 $44,600 161.550 Wood Brothers Racing (3)
1973 February 18 Richard Petty (4) 43 Dodge 7th 17 $36,100 157.205 Petty Enterprises (5)
1974 February 17 Richard Petty (5) 43 Dodge 2nd 73 $39,650 140.894* Petty Enterprises (6)
1975 February 16 Benny Parsons 72 Chevrolet 32nd 4 $43,905 153.649 L.G. DeWitt
1976 February 15 David Pearson 21 Mercury 7th 37 $46,800 152.181 Wood Brothers Racing (5)
1977 February 20 Cale Yarborough (2) 11 Chevrolet 4th 137 $63,700 153.218 Junior Johnson (2)
1978 February 19 Bobby Allison 15 Ford 33rd 28 $56,300 159.730 Bud Moore Engineering
1979 February 18 Richard Petty (6) 43 Oldsmobile 13th 12 $73,900 143.977 Petty Enterprises (8)
1980 February 17 Buddy Baker 28 Oldsmobile Pole 143 $102,175 177.602 Harry Rainer
1981 February 15 Richard Petty (7) 43 Buick 8th 26 $90,575 169.651 Petty Enterprises (9)
1982 February 14 Bobby Allison (2) 88 Buick 7th 147 $120,360 153.991 DiGard Motorsports
1983 February 20 Cale Yarborough (3) 28 Pontiac 8th 23 $119,600 155.979 Harry Ranier (2)
1984 February 19 Cale Yarborough (4) 28 Chevrolet Pole 89 $160,300 150.994 Harry Ranier (3)
1985 February 17 Bill Elliott 9 Ford Pole 136 $185,500 172.265 Melling Racing
1986 February 16 Geoff Bodine 5 Chevrolet 2nd 101 $192,715 148.124 Hendrick Motorsports
1987 February 15 Bill Elliott (2) 9 Ford Pole 104 $204,150 176.263 Melling Racing (2)
1988 February 14 Bobby Allison (3) 12 Buick 3rd 70 $202,940 137.531 Stavola Brothers Racing
1989 February 19 Darrell Waltrip 17 Chevrolet 2nd 25 $184,900 148.466 Hendrick Motorsports (2)
1990 February 18 Derrike Cope 10 Chevrolet 12th 5 $188,150 165.761 Bob Whitcomb
1991 February 17 Ernie Irvan 4 Chevrolet 2nd 29 $233,000 148.148 Morgan-McClure Motorsports
1992 February 16 Davey Allison 28 Ford 6th 127 $244,050 160.256 Robert Yates Racing
1993 February 14 Dale Jarrett 18 Chevrolet 2nd 8 $238,200 154.972 Joe Gibbs Racing
1994 February 20 Sterling Marlin 4 Chevrolet 4th 30 $258,275 156.931 Morgan-McClure Motorsports (2)
1995 February 19 Sterling Marlin (2) 4 Chevrolet 3rd 105 $300,460 141.710 Morgan-McClure Motorsports (3)
1996 February 18 Dale Jarrett (2) 88 Ford 7th 40 $360,775 154.308 Robert Yates Racing (2)
1997 February 16 Jeff Gordon 24 Chevrolet 6th 40 $377,410 148.295 Hendrick Motorsports (3)
1998 February 15 Dale Earnhardt 3 Chevrolet 4th 105 $1,059,805 172.712 Richard Childress Racing
1999 February 14 Jeff Gordon (2) 24 Chevrolet Pole 15 $1,172,246 161.551 Hendrick Motorsports (4)
2000 February 20 Dale Jarrett (3) 88 Ford Pole 87 $1,277,975 155.669 Robert Yates Racing (3)
2001 February 18 Michael Waltrip 15 Chevrolet 19th 23 $1,331,185 161.783 Dale Earnhardt, Inc.
2002 February 17 Ward Burton 22 Dodge 19th 4 $1,389,017 130.810 Bill Davis Racing
2003 February 16 Michael Waltrip (2) 15 Chevrolet 4th 68 (of 109) $1,419,406 133.870* Dale Earnhardt, Inc. (2)
2004 February 15 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 8 Chevrolet 3rd 59 $1,495,070 156.341 Dale Earnhardt, Inc. (3)
2005 February 20 Jeff Gordon (3) 24 Chevrolet 15th 28 (of 203) $1,497,150 135.173* Hendrick Motorsports (5)
2006 February 19 Jimmie Johnson 48 Chevrolet 9th 24 (of 203) $1,505,120 142.734* Hendrick Motorsports (6)
2007 February 18 Kevin Harvick 29 Chevrolet 34th 4 (of 202) $1,510,469 149.333* Richard Childress Racing (2)
2008 February 17 Ryan Newman 12 Dodge 7th 8 $1,543,045 152.672 Penske Racing

Andretti was born in Italy, but became a naturalized American citizen.

All of the above races were 500 miles (200 laps) long, except those listed below:

  • 1965: 322.5 miles (129 laps) because of rain
  • 1966: 495 miles (198 laps) because of rain
  • 1974: 450 miles (180 laps) Race scheduled for 90% distance in response to the energy crisis; scoring began on lap 20.
  • 2003: 272.5 miles (109 laps) because of rain
  • 2005: 507.5 miles (203 laps) because of green-white-checker finish rule
  • 2006: 507.5 miles (203 laps) because of green-white-checker finish rule
  • 2007: 505 miles (202 laps) because of green-white-checker finish rule

NOTE: Effective July 25, 2004, NASCAR changed finish rules in Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series competition, utilizing a green-white-checker finish. If at any time during the penultimate lap the race is under caution, the race will end with two green flag laps or the next caution upon the ensuing restart. The Craftsman Truck Series had already been using this rule since it began in 1995 (although the Truck Series rule originally mandated that every race had to end under green, meaning that multiple green-white-checker finishes could be attempted and often were during this time).

Race winner facts

Multiple victories

Consecutive victories

Winners from the pole position

Family winners

  • Petty
    • Father Lee (1959) and son Richard (1964, 1966, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1979, 1981)
  • Allison
    • Father Bobby (1978, 1982, 1988) and son Davey (1992)
  • Earnhardt
  • Waltrip

Won Daytona 500 and Budweiser Shootout in same year

Won Daytona 500 and Gatorade Duel in same year

Won Budweiser Shootout, Gatorade Duel, & Daytona 500 in same year

None

References

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