Attendance figures at Daytona are much smaller than those typically seen at ‘rival’ track Indianapolis. However, international TV ratings for the Daytona 500 have consistently surpassed those of the world-famous Indy 500 over the past twenty years.
Unsurprisingly, Daytona has (for better or worse) contributed many standout moments in NASCAR history. Here are five particular Daytona moments that stand out as memorable.
1967 Daytona 500
An open-wheel racer by trade, Mario Andretti made only sporadic appearances in the NASCAR Cup. Back in 1967, he scored an unbelievable out-of-the-blue victory at Daytona. Even more impressive is the fact that he led for over half of the 200 laps.
This race was won and lost on the final corner. Richard Petty was a giant in the 1970s, and looked set for another accomplished victory. David Pearson overtook Petty on the backstretch, and in response, Petty attempted to turn under Pearson.
It was a gambit that saw Petty spin into Daytona’s famous infield grass and concede the race. Pearson’s car had also sustained damage, but he crawled over the line for a last-ditch victory.
By this time, safety was increasingly on the agenda. This was the first edition of the Daytona 500 to feature restrictor plates, which prevented the cars from reaching their potential top speeds. This race is highly memorable, as a father and son topped the podium.
By winning this event, Bobby Allison became the oldest driver in history to win the Daytona 500.
Sterling Martin made history, with his second successive Daytona 500 win.
A sombre affair, this race marked the tenth anniversary of Dale Earnhardt Sr’s tragic death at the same circuit. In reference to his car number (3), crowd and commentators alike conducted the third lap of the race in silence.
In a fitting tribute to Earnhardt, a 20-year old Trevor Bayne became the youngest ever winner of the Daytona 500.