Daytona 500: A Brief History

Often referred to as “The Great American Race” due to its roots of all American race car manufacturers and drivers, the Daytona 500 is the most prestigious NASCAR race with the biggest purse. Here are a few highlights of the Daytona 500 throughout the years…

In 1959, Lee Petty won the first Daytona 500 race.

The 1979 Daytona 500 was the first 500-mile race to be broadcast live on national television.

In 1980, Buddy Baker won the fastest Daytona 500 ever at 177.602 mph.

In 1981, Richard Petty was 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. The very next year, he was the first to complete an actual race lap at over 200 mph.

1988 marks the year that restrictor plates were mandated in an effort to reduce the dangerously high speeds.

In 1997, Jeff Gordon was the youngest driver to win a Daytona 500 race at that time.

After 20 years and attempts, Dale Earnhardt won his first Daytona 500 in 1998 and in 2001 he died in a crash on his final lap. 

The 50th running of the Daytona 500 took place in 2008.

In 2011, the Daytona International Speedway was repaved and the third lap was run silent in memory of the 10th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s death.

2013 was the first race with the redesigned Generation 6 body and newcomer Danica Patrick was the first woman to win the pole.

2016 was the closest finish, with Denny Hamlin winning by only .010 seconds.

In 2020, Donald Trump was the first president to serve as the Daytona 500 Grand Marshal.

The 2021 Daytona 500 included a 16-car wreck. Kind of sounds like par for the course last year.

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