The first DAYTONA 500 at Bill France Sr.’s newly constructed 2.5-mile tri-oval superspeedway took place on February 22, 1959. Famously, the race ended in a three-wide photo finish with Lee Petty and Johnny Beauchamp seemingly in a dead heat for the win. While the on-the-spot unofficial decision went to Beauchamp, after examining photos – including T. Taylor Warren’s signature image – NASCAR reversed the decision to give the victory to Petty by a margin of approximately two feet.
Moving through the next six decades, we take a look at the other 57 years of DAYTONA 500 history.
The current decade has provided some of the most exciting and memorable moments in the history of “The Great American Race.”
Closest DAYTONA 500 Finish. Only eight months ago, Denny Hamlin won the DAYTONA 500 for the first time , pushing his No. 11 FedEx Toyota ahead of Martin Truex Jr.'s No. 78 Furniture Row Toyota at the finish by 0.010 seconds – the closest finish since NASCAR introduced electronic timing and scoring in 1993.
Hamlin pulled out of line with a lap to go and chased down teammate Matt Kenseth. Hamlin staved off Kenseth's block, and wedged between Kenseth and Truex, stayed on the gas for a door-to-door dash to the checkered flag that ended in a photo finish with Truex. It was the first DAYTONA 500 win for owner Joe Gibbs since Dale Jarrett’s victory in 1993. It also marked Toyota’s first DAYTONA 500 win in its 10 years in the Cup Series.
Youngest Champions. The 2011 DAYTONA 500 led to the fourth-closest DAYTONA 500 finish at .118 seconds and the youngest winner in race history. Driving the famed Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford, Trevor Bayne, who turned 20 years old the day prior to the race, returned the legendary race team to Gatorade Victory Lane for the first time in 10 years. With the victory, the No. 21 car became the winningest number in DAYTONA 500 history with five.
Only four years later, Joey Logano (24 years old) drove the No. 22 Team Penske Ford to Gatorade Victory Lane, becoming the second-youngest driver in series history to win the DAYTONA 500.
Back-to-back victories for Hendrick Motorsports. In 2014, Rick Hendrick became the first owner to win consecutive DAYTONA 500s since his team won in 2005 and ‘06. In 2013 it was Jimmie Johnson claiming his second career DAYTONA 500 victory in his 400th career NASCAR Cup Series start. The victory was the start of a season that saw Johnson capture both Cup Series races at DAYTONA – the first time a driver had done so in 31 years.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. followed Johnson to Gatorade Victory Lane the next year, after finishing as runner-up three of the previous four DAYTONA 500s. His No. 88 Chevrolet led a race-high 54 of 200 laps.
1 – Six Drivers Tied
• The 2010s are the only decade in which no single driver won multiple DAYTONA 500s.
• The 2011 DAYTONA 500 featured the most different leaders (22) and lead changes (74) of any single race in event history.
• Danica Patrick made NASCAR history by winning the pole for the 55th annual DAYTONA 500, becoming the first woman to win a pole for a NASCAR Cup Series event.
What was your favorite moment from the DAYTONA 500 during the 2010s? Let us know by leaving us a comment below! Be a part of the next chapter of history by attending the 59th running of the DAYTONA 500. Tickets are on sale now and going fast! Buy now or call 1-800-PITSHOP for tickets and information.