Reflections of the First Daytona 500

The Finish of the 1959 Daytona 500
The Finish of the 1959 Daytona 500

The inagural Daytona 500 was run on February 22, 1959 at Daytona International Speedway. The posted awards for the race totaled $67,760. The field included 59 cars when the green flag dropped for the start of the 200-lap race. A crowd of 41,000 was on hand to witness the beginning of a historic chapter of racing at Daytona.

The circumstances surrounding the finish of the first race seemed to indicate that the Daytona 500 was destined to become a special event. With three cars crossing the line together in a photo finish, the finish was too close to call. Johnny Beauchamp went to Victory Lane and celebrated, although the results were posted as "unofficial."

It wasn't until three days later that Lee Petty was declared the winner in what appeared to be a dead heat between Petty and Beauchamp, with the lapped car of Joe Weatherly making it a three-wide finish at the checkered flag. A piece of news footage proved that Petty was the winner by a few feet.

Fifty years later, "The Great American Race" is NASCAR's most most prestigious event and has the biggest total payout in prize money for any motorsports event in the country.

Year / Winning Driver / Speed / Prize Money / Car

  • 1959 : Lee Petty (135.521) $19,050 - Oldsmobile
  • 1960 : Junior Johnson (124.74) $19,600 - Chevrolet
  • 1961 : Marvin Panch (149.601) $21,050 - Pontiac
  • 1962 : Fireball Roberts (152.529) $24,190 - Pontiac
  • 1963 : Tiny Lund (151.566) $24,550 - Ford
  • 1964 : Richard Petty (154.334) $33,300 - Plymouth
  • 1965 : Fred Lorenzen (141.539) $27,100 - Ford
  • 1966 : Richard Petty (160.627) $28,150 - Plymouth
  • 1967 : Mario Andretti (146.926) $48,900 - Ford
  • 1968 : Cale Yarborough (143.251) $47,250 - Mercury
  • 1969 : LeeRoy Yarbrough (157.95) $38,950 - Ford
  • 1970 : Pete Hamilton (149.601) $44,850 - Plymouth
  • 1971 : Richard Petty (144.462) $45,450 - Plymouth
  • 1972 : AJ Foyt (161.55) $44,600 - Mercury
  • 1973 : Richard Petty (157.205) $33,500 - Dodge
  • 1974 : Richard Petty (140.894) $34,100 - Dodge
  • 1975 : Benny Parsons (153.649) $40,900 - Chevrolet
  • 1976 : David Pearson (152.181) $46,800 - Mercury
  • 1977 : Cale Yarborough (153.218) $47,200 - Chevrolet
  • 1978 : Bobby Allison (159.73) $44,300 - Ford
  • 1979 : Richard Petty (143.977) $73,900 - Oldsmobile
  • 1980 : Buddy Baker (177.602) $102,175 - Oldsmobile
  • 1981 : Richard Petty (169.651) $90,575 - Buick
  • 1982 : Bobby Allison (153.991) $120,630 - Buick
  • 1983 : Cale Yarborough (155.979) $119,600 - Pontiac
  • 1984 : Cale Yarborough (150.994) $160,300 - Chevrolet
  • 1985 : Bill Elliott (172.265) $185,500 - Ford
  • 1986 : Geoffrey Bodine (148.124) $192,715 - Chevrolet
  • 1987 : Bill Elliott (176.263) $204,150 - Ford
  • 1988 : Bobby Allison (137.531) $202,940 - Buick
  • 1989 : Darrell Waltrip (148.466) $184,900 - Chevrolet
  • 1990 : Derrike Cope (165.761) $188,150 - Chevrolet
  • 1991 : Ernie Irvan (148.148) $233,000 - Chevrolet
  • 1992 : Davey Allison (160.256) $244,050 - Ford
  • 1993 : Dale Jarrett (154.972) $238,200 - Chevrolet
  • 1994 : Sterling Marlin (156.931) $258,275 - Chevrolet
  • 1995 : Sterling Marlin (141.71) $300,460 - Chevrolet
  • 1996 : Dale Jarrett (154.308) $360,775 - Ford
  • 1997 : Jeff Gordon (148.295) $377,410 - Chevrolet
  • 1998 : Dale Earnhardt (172.712) $1,059,105 - Chevrolet
  • 1999 : Jeff Gordon (161.551( $1,172,246 - Chevrolet
  • 2000 : Dale Jarrett (155.669) $1,277,975 - Ford
  • 2001 : Michael Waltrip (161.783) $1,331,185 - Chevrolet
  • 2002 : Ward Burton (142.971) $1,409,017 - Dodge
  • 2003 : Michael Waltrip (133.87) $1,400,406 - Chevrolet
  • 2004 : Dale Earnhardt Jr. (156.345) $1,495,070 - Chevrolet
  • 2005 : Jeff Gordon (135.173) $1,497,154 - Chevrolet
  • 2006 : Jimmie Johnson (142.667) $1,505,124 - Chevrolet
  • 2007 : Kevin Harvick (149.335) $1,510,469 - Chevrolet

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