THE DAYTONA 450
Faced with an OPEC boycott of oil exports to the United States and other countries, NASCAR leapt into action prior to the start of the 1974 season. At a time when gas stations across the nation were closed due to a lack of gasoline, the Daytona 500 was shortened by 10 percent — 50 miles. The first 20 laps were not scored, so the race “officially” began on lap 21.
According to Greg Fielden’s Forty Years of Stock Car Racing, Volume IV: The Modern Era 1972-1989, practice days were also cut from eight to five and teams were limited to 30 gallons of fuel during their trial runs. Track officials later estimated that 30 percent less fuel was used in 1974 than the year before, 18,009 gallons in ‘74 compared to the 26,964 gallons consumed in ‘73.
David Pearson started from the pole, with Richard Petty on the outside of the first row. Pearson fell out early, the victim of a damaged exhaust. Petty, however, went on to capture his fifth Daytona 500 victory after then-leader Donnie Allison was caught up in an accident on lap 189.
Cale Yarborough, Ramo Stott, Coo Coo Marlin (Sterling’s father) and A.J. Foyt finished second through fifth, respectively, while Allison, Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Isaac, Dick Brooks and Walter Ballard rounded out the top 10.
Isaac made his return to racing in this event after mysteriously stepping out of his car at Talladega the year before. He would finish second in his next race, at Bristol in mid-March. Isaac ran a total of 19 races before retiring for good in 1976.