The 500 mile long NASCAR auto race Daytona 500 2020 is again round the corner and we can’t wait for February to arrive sooner even if that means getting ambushed by a brand new set of new year resolutions. The race is organized on the Daytona Beach, Florida in the US. The first ever race of the Great American Race as they call it, was held in 1959 and it has become the most respected and the most important race in the NASCAR series since then, gathering one of the largest crowds out of all the sports events.
Beach, sunshine, race, thrill, drinks, what’s not to like? Today, we are going to share with you ten crazy things about Daytona 500 which you might not know! Let’s sip some Pina Colada while we relive last year's golden memories!
10 The First Race
The first ever Great Am race, the inaugural Daytona 500 was organized in 1959. The race which has been keeping us at the edges of our seats ever since, was pretty crazy the first day too. The drivers Lee Petty and Beauchamp had raced so fast and their finish time was so close that it was pretty difficult to figure who finished first.
The owner William France named Beauchamp the winner, but Petty challenged the results and, three days and a ton of new photographs later, Petty was proved right and made the first winner of the Daytona 500.
9 Prize Money
The Super Bowl of NASCAR, the Daytona 500 is the most important race series in the world. It is incredibly rewarding for the racers too. The winners not only become very respected, sought after and famous, but they get to take a considerably heavy purse home too.
Though, the first race awarded only about $19,000, the event has been growing enormously and been gushing pretty crazy money since as rewards. Currently, the prize money is a million dollars and not to mention a buttload of sponsorships and endorsements.
8 Most Wins
Richard Petty, one of the best drivers in the history of NASCAR, is also the racer with the most wins in the whole Daytona 500 history so far with a staggering seven wins. You have it right, Richard is the son of the legendary Lee Petty.
He won the first race in 1964, the same year when Lee retired. Richard went on to win the races in 1966, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1979 and 1981 as well. Interestingly, Richard, who is often adorably called the King, worked as a mechanic too just like Lee Petty, albeit it was just for his father. The forever Young Richard still takes active participation in the series and he owns a team too.
7 First Live Broadcast and The Scuffle
The most popular and the most memorable Daytona 500 race yet is the 1979 race where the whole action was broadcasted live for the first time in the history. It is not only famous for the first live broadcast, but, because of the scuffle too, between Yarborough and the Allison brothers which painted the pages of the newspapers and magazines red, for weeks to come!
The inside story is that when the racers were pretty close to the finish on the final lap, the cars of Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison collided head on and crashed. Closely following them was Richard Petty who raced ahead to win the cup. But, the story does not end here. Yarborough and Donnie Allison came out of the cars and started fist fighting where another Allison brother Bobby joined in too, to help Donnie. Ah, such a treat!
6 1974 Daytona 450
Daytona 500 is called so because the track is 500 miles long. And a fun fact is the 1974 race was just 450 miles long! Of course, it's historically known as the Daytona 450.
On a serious note, America was facing severe energy crisis during that year and so NASCAR deducted 10% track off of the races in the early races of the season. Richard Petty finished first and won the Daytona 500 the fifth time.
5 Father-Son Moment
American auto racer Dale Jarrett won for the first and the only time in his career in the year 1993. The race will remain the most dramatic and emotional race forever. Dale Jarrett was racing a Chevy JGR while his father Ned Jarrett was handling the live broadcast and was doing the commentary. There were not even minute considerations of Dale finishing the race let alone winning.
The father-son historic moment started when Jarrett rushed forward in the final laps. Ned made use of the mic and for the first and only time in the NASCAR history, started openly cheering for his son while Dale won the race. Meanwhile, an iconic still of Martha, Dale’s mother trembling while Dale was racing, did rounds for months, on the TV. Later, Ned apologized to the runner up Earnhardt who smiled and shook it off!
4 1989 Trivia
American racer Darrell Waltrip won his first and only Daytona 500 race in 1989. The crazy thing is this was his 17th attempt in the Great American race on 17th February, in pit stall number 17 and he was racing his number 17 car.
Seems like 17 was lucky for him that year. Boogity Boogity boy Darrell won total 84 sprint cup races and is still very lively as ever. Considered to be cocky and the biggest goofball of the NASCAR, Darrell is currently working as a very respected NASCAR analyst.
3 Tragic 2001
The Intimidator and the most aggressive racer of all, Dale Earnhardt lost his life tragically in an extremely unfortunate accident in the Daytona 500 of 2001. Dale was highly famous for his unique style, the distinctive ability of driving, and winning cars no one drove. People loved him and his endorsements sold like hot cakes.
His car got hit by Ken Schrader’s car and then smashed into the wall. Dale received very severe head injuries and apparently died at the spot. After this tragic event, lots of safety measures were put in place.
2 The Youngest Winner
Jeff Gordon became the youngest Daytona 500 winner in 1997 at just 25 years and 6 months old. He went on to win the Great American race a total of three times and is one of the best drivers in the NASCAR history with four championships.
He retired in 2015 from the active racing in NASCAR after 23 seasons. He enjoys dropping hints of him coming back for one final race and likes teasing his fans.
1 The Oldest Winner
Bobby Allison became the oldest winner in 1988 at the age of 59 years and 2 months in the history of the Daytona 500. Interestingly, Bobby was also the first driver who won the Daytona 500 with the restrictor plates in 1988 and without the restrictor plates too before the NASCAR mandated the small carburetors and restrictor plates for safety reasons.
In an unfortunate fatal crash with Maggiacomo’s at Pocono, Bobby fought the battle with death and miraculously came back to life after several surgeries and weeks. He never raced again and could never remember his accident or that legendary 1988 win either.