Greatest Daytona 500 Moments of All Time
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Great Moments At Daytona 500
For NASCAR fans, there is no bigger race than the Daytona 500. This year was the 55th running of the historical race. It marked the first time in NASCAR history that a woman (Danica Patrick) won the pole for a race. The Daytona 500 has had many memorable moments, some were the best of NASCAR history, and some, the worst.
Although I have only been a fan of NASCAR for a few short years, I have watched many of the memorable moments myself. Other moments were shown on national news and were seen by many millions of people. These are some of the most outstanding moments of the Daytona 500, in order by year.
Daytona 500 1959
1959 was the first time the Daytona 500 was run. At that time it was called the First Annual 500 Mile NASCAR International Sweepstakes at Daytona. It was one of a very few NASCAR races that had no cautions, making it a “perfect” race. The average speed for the race was about 135 miles per hour, compared to today’s speeds of around 195 miles per hour. Jack Smith led the most laps. The finish of the race was not decided until three days later. Johnny Beauchamp and Lee Petty crossed the line at virtually the same time. Initially, Beauchamp was declared the winner, but three days later, after looking at photo footage of the finish, Lee Petty was declared the winner. It was the first time a photo determined the outcome of a race.
The Photo Finish
Daytona 500 1979 Fight
Daytona 500 1979
The Daytona 500 in 1979 is one of the most important races in NASCAR history. Not because of who won (Richard Petty – one of the greats!), but because of a fight that was talked about the next day around the water coolers at work. This fight was considered the thing that made NASCAR popular with everyone, not just avid race fans. It was also the first time the race was covered from start to finish. The fight was between Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough. The fight actually started on the track when both drivers were fighting for the finish line. As they came close to the finish line, Yarborough tried to slingshot around Allison. Allison tried to block him and Yarborough ended up in the muddy infield. After bumping each other a few more times, both drivers ended up crashing before the finish line. They both came out of their cars and began arguing. Bobby Allison came around and joined into the argument. The argument led to a brawl that was shown on national television the next morning, causing the popularity of the sport to go nationwide. Few people remember that Richard Petty won the race, but everyone remembered the fight.
Dale Earnhardt Wins 1998 Daytona 500
Daytona 500 1998
Dale Earnhardt was one of the most popular drivers in NASCAR. He started his career in 1975 and gained the reputation of one of the best drivers in NASCAR history. He was an aggressive racer, and was called “the Intimidator.” One of the races he most wanted to win was the Daytona 500. He came close many times, at times being in the lead at the very last moment only to have something go wrong before the finish line. In 1998, he finally got the win that every driver dreams of, the Daytona 500.
Daytona 500 2001
This was a great race for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Or it would have been if not for the horrible tragedy that happened right before the finish. Michael Waltrip came in first; Dale Earnhardt, Jr. came in second. It could have been a proud moment. Instead the horrible crash killed one of the most loved drivers in NASCAR history, Dale Earnhardt, Sr. Because of his death, there have been many changes in NASCAR, making the sport as safe as possible. One of these safety measures, the SAFER barrier, or Steel and Foam Energy Reduction Barrier, is a soft wall that absorbs the energy of the impact, has saved many lives of NASCAR drivers.
Daytona 500 2004
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is almost as popular as his father was. He has won the most popular driver award on several occasions. Junior came in second during the race that killed his father in 2001. Three short years later, Junior won the Daytona 500, honoring his father.
First Woman on the Pole Daytona 500 2013
Daytona 500 2013
This year’s Daytona 500 was historical, indeed. For the first time ever a woman won the pole. Danica Patrick not only won the pole, but did it faster than anyone since 1990. Danica ran in the IndyCar series from 2005 through 2011. She began racing full time for the Sprint Cup series in NASCAR just this year. She has also raced in the Nationwide Series. Danica is also spokesperson for GoDaddy.com.
Other Memorable Daytona Races
There were other memorable moments at Daytona. In 2011 Trevor Bayne was the youngest winner of the Daytona 500. In 2007, Kevin Harvick beat Mark Martin by a mere .020 seconds. At one race at Daytona, President Ronald Reagan came to watch Richard Petty earn his 200th win. Daytona is the place where much of the excitement of NASCAR begins – and ends.