daytona 500

The Daytona 500, often referred to as “The Great American Race,” is the most prestigious event in the NASCAR Cup Series and has been held annually since 1959. It takes place at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. The race is known for its high speeds, intense competition, and being the opening race of the NASCAR season, setting the tone for the year.

History of the Daytona 500

Lee Petty won the inaugural race in a photo finish that took three days to resolve!
The first Daytona 500 was held on February 22, 1959, at the newly constructed Daytona International Speedway.

The race has been the scene of some of the most memorable moments in NASCAR history. In 1976, Richard Petty and David Pearson crashed near the finish line, with Pearson limping his car to victory. In 1979, the first nationally televised NASCAR race ended with a fistfight between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison after they crashed out on the last lap, significantly boosting NASCAR’s popularity.

Perhaps the most poignant moment in Daytona 500 history occurred in 2001 when Dale Earnhardt Sr., a seven-time NASCAR champion, died in a last-lap crash. His death led to significant safety improvements in the sport.

Greatest Daytona 500 Drivers

Richard Petty Known as “The King” is the most successful driver in the history of the Daytona 500, with seven victories (1964, 1966, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1979, and 1981). His dominance in the event and NASCAR as a whole has made him a legend in the sport.

Cale Yarborough won the Daytona 500 four times (1968, 1977, 1983, and 1984) and was known for his aggressive driving style and fierce competitiveness. He was the first driver to win three consecutive NASCAR Cup Series championships.

Despite being known as one of the greatest NASCAR drivers of all time, Dale Earnhardt Sr. only won the Daytona 500 once, in 1998, after 20 years of trying. His 34 total victories at Daytona International Speedway remain a record, showcasing his mastery of the track.

Jeff Gordon has three Daytona 500 victories (1997, 1999, and 2005) and is known for his rivalry with Dale Earnhardt Sr. in the 1990s, which brought NASCAR to a broader audience. His success helped bridge the gap between NASCAR’s traditional fan base and a younger, more diverse audience.

Denny Hamlin has emerged as one of the most successful drivers in recent Daytona 500 history, winning the race multiple times (2016, 2019, and 2020 as of my last update). His success at Daytona has solidified his place among the greats in NASCAR history.

These drivers, among others, have left a lasting legacy on the Daytona 500 and NASCAR as a whole. Their remarkable achievements, memorable moments, and contributions to the sport have cemented their status as the greatest of all time (GOATs) in the history of the Daytona 500.

Tamara Stewart

Obsessed with sports stats, and fond of the occasional wager - Tam is a sports writer and data analyst covering NFL, NHL and UFC.