The Daytona 500 -- NASCAR's Biggest Race
By Rick Houston
There's simply no way to underestimate the impact of the Daytona 500 on NASCAR. Daytona 500 wins and losses are discussed and dissected for years.
In honor of the 2010 edition of the event, take a look back at some of the event's most memorable moments.
Lee Petty (42) is sandwiched between Johnny Beauchamp (73) and the lapped car of Joe Weatherly as they hurtle to the checkered flag in the inaugural Daytona 500 held on Feb. 22, 1959. Beauchamp was originally named the winner, but after a three-day check of film and photos such as this one, the victory went to Petty. (The Tom Kirkland Collection/Smyle Media)
Although Mario Andretti is better known as an open-wheel legend, he actually won the Daytona 500 before tasting victory in the Indianapolis 500. Andretti won the 1967 Daytona 500, two full years before his Indy win. (The Don Hunter Collection/Smyle Media)
Richard Petty won a record seven Daytona 500s, but he also experienced his fair share of trouble in the event. Here, Petty takes matters into his own hands by climbing on the hood of his car to hammer down its roof. The black vinyl roof was intended to give Petty an aerodynamic advantage, but when it came loose early in the race, it created a parachute effect. (The Don Hunter Collection/Smyle Media)
The field is lined up on pit road for the start of the 1970 Daytona 500. (The Don Hunter Collection/Smyle Media)
Maurice Petty changes the left front tire on Pete Hamilton’s Plymouth SuperBird during the 1970 Daytona 500. Hamilton scored an upset victory in the event, beating David Pearson to the finish by three car lengths. (The Don Hunter Collection/Smyle Media)
There have been many stunning finishes in the Daytona 500, but none more so than in 1976. David Pearson and Richard Petty battled for the win throughout the late stages of the race before making contact coming off turn four on the last lap. Both spun, and when Pearson was able to limp across the finish line first, he collected his first and only win in the sport’s biggest race. (The Don Hunter Collection/Smyle Media)
Dale Earnhardt is en route to victory in the 1980 Busch Clash. Earnhardt had won virtually every other race possible at Daytona, but didn’t taste victory in the Daytona 500 until 1998, 18 years after this photo was taken. (The Don Hunter Collection/Smyle Media)
Bill Elliott receives a smooch from daughter Starr after winning the 1985 Daytona 500. It was the start of a huge year for Elliott, who won a total of 11 races that season. Along with his Daytona 500 triumph, Elliott also posted wins in the Winston 500 at Talladega and Darlington’s Southern 500 to collect a cool $1 million bonus in The Winston Million program. (The Don Hunter Collection/Smyle Media)
Richard Petty’s Pontiac is demolished in this terrible crash just past the mid-way point in the 1988 Daytona 500. Although announcer Chris Economacki said on CBS’ broadcast of the race that the incident would surely end Petty’s driving career, Petty raced the very next week in Richmond. (The Don Hunter Collection/Smyle Media)
Bobby Allison is doused in beer following his win in the 1988 Daytona 500, a race in which he narrowly beat son Davey to the checkered flag. (The Don Hunter Collection/Smyle Media)
It took Darrell Waltrip 17 tries to finally win the Daytona 500, and when he finally did get to visit victory lane, it was one of the most spontaneous celebrations the race has ever seen. Here, Waltrip does his version of the “Ickey Shuffle”. (The Don Hunter Collection/Smyle Media)