The first DAYTONA 500 at Bill France Sr.’s newly constructed 2.5-mile tri-oval superspeedway took place on Feb. 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.
As we take a look at the other 59 years of DAYTONA 500 history, we round our countdown with the highlights of the 2010s so far.
In the most recent running of “The Great American Race,” Kurt Busch took the lead in the final lap to win his first career DAYTONA 500. With four laps to go, pole winner Chase Elliott ran out of gas and relinquished the lead. Two other leaders ran out of gas in the final laps and Busch pulled ahead with just one lap to go to claim victory.
In 2016, 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.
The previous year, Joey Logano edged out a star-studded top five to claim the second DAYTONA 500 win for Team Penske and become the second-youngest winner in race history.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. returned to Gatorade Victory Lane in 2014, after finishing as runner-up three of the previous four DAYTONA 500s. His No. 88 Chevrolet led a race-high 54 of 200 laps. 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.
In 2012 Matt Kenseth won his second DAYTONA 500 in four years in the first-ever race postponed due to weather. “The Great American Race” was held on the following Monday in primetime as Kenseth held off Greg Biffle for the win.
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 win, the No. 21 car became the winningest number in DAYTONA 500 history with five.
Jamie McMurray won the 2010 DAYTONA 500 under a green-white-checker finish, with Dale Earnhardt Jr finishing in second.
1 – Seven Tied
• The 2010s are the only decade in which no single driver has 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 in 2013, becoming the first woman to win a pole for a NASCAR Cup Series event.
Be a part of the next chapter of history by attending the 60th running of the DAYTONA 500. Tickets are on sale now and going fast! Buy now or call 1-800-PITSHOP for tickets and information.
What was your favorite moment from the DAYTONA 500 during the 2010s? Let us know by leaving us a comment below!