The first summer race at Daytona International Speedway was called the Firecracker 250 – the forerunner of the Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola – and held on July 4, 1959. The race ran its scheduled 250 miles with no caution flags. Daytona Beach native Fireball Roberts won in dominating fashion, leading 84 of 100 laps and beating runner-up Joe Weatherly by 57 seconds.
Moving decade-by-decade, we take a look at the other 56 years of Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola history.
In 2002, Michael Waltrip grabbed a second consecutive Coke Zero 400 win for Dale Earnhardt Inc. as he beat Rusty Wallace to the checked flag for his second win at Daytona International Speedway in a 17-month span.
Rookie Greg Biffle took home the victory in 2003. He led the last 21 laps for his first Sprint Cup series victory which came in his 24th start and made for his second career top-10 finish at the time.
Jeff Gordon’s 2004 victory would begin a hot stretch for the driver at DIS as he would go on to win the 2005 DAYTONA 500 just eight months later.
Starting in 2005, Tony Stewart set a new standard for modern-era greatness, winning three of the decade’s final five Coke Zero 400s. His back-to-back victories in 2005 and 2006 made him the first consecutive winner in the event since David Pearson did so in 1973 and ‘74.
Jamie McMurray clinched a thrilling victory in the 2007 49th annual Coke Zero 400 as he wheeled himself to the head of the field for the closest finish in the Independence Day weekend classic since the advent of electronic timing and scoring – .005 seconds. The win marked the last race at Daytona International Speedway before the Car of Tomorrow was introduced, it snapped Chevrolet's win streak that started with the 2004 race and was only McMurray’s second career victory.
Kyle Busch, who finished second the year before, broke through his struggles and made it into Gatorade Victory Lane in the 50th Coke Zero 400, becoming the youngest driver (23) to win the race.
Tony Stewart capped a terrific run in the decade with his third victory in the event in 2009, on the 25th anniversary of Richard Petty’s 200th and final NASCAR victory.
Most Victories of the Decade
3 (’05, ’06, ’09) – Tony Stewart
- Tony Stewart became only the fifth driver to win consecutive races and was the third three-time winner in a single decade, joining Bobby Allison in the 1980s and David Pearson in the 1970s.
- Tony Stewart set the event record for most wins from the pole position with his 2005 and 2009 victories
- In 2000, Dale Jarrett won the Coke Zero 400 pole and DAYTONA 500 pole, becoming just the 10th driver to accomplish the feat in a single year.
What was your favorite Coke Zero 400 moment during the 2000s? Let us know by leaving us a comment below! Be a part of the next chapter of history by attending the 2016 Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola -- the first in the new motorsports stadium. Tickets are going fast! Buy now or call 1-800-PITSHOP for tickets and information.