From the moment Bill France Sr. dreamed of creating a racetrack that was bigger, faster and more exciting than any before it, Daytona International Speedway and the DAYTONA 500 became the ultimate stage for record-breaking achievements in motorsports. Through the years, the Great American Race has pushed countless drivers to career-defining personal bests, setting some truly unbelievable records in the process.
Fastest Pole Speed
210.364 mph – Bill Elliott, Ford (1987)
Elliott holds a DAYTONA 500 record that will probably never be broken – fastest qualifying lap. In 1987, Elliott won the pole with a lap of 210.364 mph, a year before restrictor plates were implemented in NASCAR at Daytona International Speedway. Elliott would go on to win the 1987 DAYTONA 500.
Most Career Victories
7 – Richard Petty (1964, 66, 71, 73-74, 79, 81)
Another DAYTONA 500 record that will likely never be broken is Richard Petty’s seven career DAYTONA 500 wins. The seven-time DAYTONA 500 champion is not only the all-time leader in DAYTONA 500 victories, but is also one of only two drivers to have won the DAYTONA 500 in three different decades. He also holds the records for most laps led (781), most races led (20) and most laps led in a race (184).
Most Consecutive Victories
2 – Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarborough (1983-84) and Sterling Marlin (1994-95)
In 59 years, only three drivers have ever won back-to-back DAYTONA 500s.
While Richard Petty’s 1973 victory came in his usual dominating fashion with a more than two-lap margin of victory, the 1974 DAYTONA 500 was one of the most competitive in history with 59 official lead changes among 15 leaders.
In 1983-84, there was nobody running faster at DAYTONA than Cale Yarborough. In 1983, he became the first driver to run a qualifying lap of more than 200 miles per hour; however, on his second of his two qualifying laps, Yarborough flipped his car upside down in turn four. The car had to be withdrawn, and the lap did not count. Regardless, Yarborough proved his skill, winning in a backup car on a last lap pass of Buddy Baker for his third career DAYTONA 500 victory. The following year, Cale was ready to repeat as DAYTONA 500 champion, winning the pole with a new track record at over 200 mph. Once again, the race came down to a perfectly-executed last-lap slingshot maneuver by Yarborough as he flew past Darrell Waltrip and into Gatorade Victory Lane.
In the 1994 DAYTONA 500, thanks to some clever pit strategy, Sterling Marlin became the fifth driver ever to make the DAYTONA 500 his first victory. He followed it up in 1995 by going wide in his No. 4 Chevrolet for Morgan-McClure Motorsports to hold off Dale Earnhardt.
Most Career Starts
33 – Dave Marcis
Marcis competed in the DAYTONA 500 for 32 consecutive years - every year from 1968 until 1999 -qualifying again in 2002, marking the last time he would start a NASCAR race. Marcis’ stability was helped by the fact that he opted to field his own team, Marcis Auto Racing, for which he drove in 27 DAYTONA 500s. Over 33 DAYTONA 500s, or 57% of all runnings of the Great American Race, Marcis has three top-ten finishes with a career-best finish of sixth. The next closest drivers are Richard Petty (32), Terry Labonte (32) and Bill Elliott (30); the only drivers to make at least 30 career DAYTONA 500 starts.
Most Miles Completed
14,892.5 miles – Terry Labonte
A two-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, Labonte has made 32 career starts in the Great American race, stretching from 1979-2014. Labonte has six top-five finishes and has finished as the runner-up three times. Over 32 races, he’s completed 5,957 laps for a total mileage of 14,892.5. The only member of the 14,000-mile club, Bill Elliott comes in next closest as 5,392 laps for 13,480 miles.
Most Wins by a Manufacturer
23 – Chevrolet
While Chevrolet won the second-ever DAYTONA 500 with Junior Johnson at the wheel in the 1960, they failed to go to Gatorade Victory Lane for the next 14 years, with Plymouth, Pontiac, Ford, Dodge and Mercury all landing multiple victories. Now, they own the most DAYTONA 500 victories of any manufacturer thanks to an unthinkable two-decade run of dominance from 1989-2007 that saw them win 15 times in 19 years thanks to names like Earnhardt, Waltrip, Gordon and Johnson.
Most Lead Changes & Most Different Leaders
74 lead changes & 22 different leaders – 2011 DAYTONA 500
The first DAYTONA 500 to be run on the newly-repaved track surface didn’t disappoint as competitors ran the brand-new pavement to a margin of victory of just .118 seconds and set several new event records, including most lead changes and most different race leaders.
The tight back-and-forth racing continued on the final lap as Carl Edwards and David Gilliland mounted a charge on the inside lane, with Carl Edwards closing in on Bayne coming out of Turn 4. However, the brand-new member of the 20-year-old club, Trevor Bayne, dropped to the bottom lane to block the hard-charging Edwards, holding held on to become the youngest driver to win the DAYTONA 500.
Closest Margin of Victory
.010 seconds – 2016 DAYTONA 500
Denny Hamlin earned his first DAYTONA 500 victory in the closest finish in the race's storied 58-year history, pushing his No. 11 FedEx Toyota ahead of Martin Truex Jr.'s Furniture Row Toyota at the finish line by one-hundredth of a second (0.010) – 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. He staved off Kenseth's block, and wedged between Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr., 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 10th year in the Cup Series.
Did we leave out any of your favorite DAYTONA 500 records? If so, let us know in the comment box below. For more great moments like these, join us for the race that means more than any other – at the place that's unlike anything else. Guarantee your seats for the 2017 DAYTONA 500 before they sell out. For tickets and more information, visit DAYTONA500.com or call 1-800-PITSHOP.
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