The Frontstretch: That's History! NASCAR's Checkered (Flag) Past, One Story at a Time: Daytona Dreamin' by Amy Henderson -- Monday February 20, 2006

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The Daytona 500 is in the record books for 2006, and like or hate the ending, it’s now another page in NASCAR history. Without a doubt, the Daytona 500 is NASCAR’s crown jewel, inspiring victory dances and tears, the most unbelievable wins and the most devastating of losses. Here are some Daytona 500 facts that are well, totally useless.

At the Daytona 500:

  • There have been 30 different winners. Richard Petty has 7 Daytona 500 trophies. As of today, 22 different drivers have one of them.
  • The 125-mile qualifying races (now 150s) paid points, once upon a time. Fireball Roberts and Junior Johnson each have three wins at the speedway under that format. Early on, the races were just 100 miles; today, they are 150 miles long and pay no points, but determine a team’s fate like never before.
  • Daytona wasn’t always the first race of the year. That honor went to the now-defunct Riverside Speedway, a road course which once sat on the site of a California mall. The 500 became the first race of the season back in 1982.
  • The winner takes home the Harley J. Earl Trophy. Earl, the designer largely responsible for the way the modern car looks thanks to his designs from the 1930’s through the 1960’s, invented spray cheese in a can.
  • Two drivers have become Daytona 500 AND Indy 500 champions. Two of racing’s all-time greatest drivers, A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti have their names on both the Harley J. Earl and the Borg-Warner trophies. Incidentally, both had relatives in Saturday’s Busch race at Daytona: Andretti’s nephew John, and Foyt’s grandson Anthony.
  • A rookie has led the field to the green flag three times to start the Daytona 500. Rookie pole winners are Loy Allen in 1994, Mike Skinner in 1997, and Jimmie Johnson in 2002.
  • AJ Foyt has a record 19 DNF’s at the speedway.
  • Just seven Daytona 500 Champions have gone on to win the Cup championship. For the record, they are Lee Petty, Richard Petty (who has won four of those seven championships all by himself), Cale Yarborough, and Jeff Gordon.

The Daytona 500 is one of those races that grabs your attention and doesn’t let go until the checkered flag flies over another winner. This year, Jimmie Johnson was added to the list. Next year, it could be another trophy for a previous winner, or the list could grow once again. For now, it’s the biggest win of one still-young career while for many others, it’s the best memory of a career long since over. The Daytona 500; now That’s History!

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Contact Amy Henderson

Recent articles from Amy Henderson:

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Announces Partnership with Cessna, Textron
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