The first race was held on the beach in Daytona. Racers would drive their cars to Daytona, race & then drive them home (provided they didn’t wreck). Daytona Speedway opened February 1959 & Lee Petty won the race. The track is a 2.5 mile “tri-oval”. Richard Petty won Daytona seven times. Cale Yarbourgh was the first driver to qualify over 200mph in 1984 & I was there. I was so impressed I immediatly bought a 1984 Monte Carlo SS. Bill Elliot holds the fastest qualifying lap @ 210.364 set on February 9, 1987 & I was there. Unfourtunalty on February 11, 1994 I said hi (in passing) to Neil Bonnett the morning before he died in a practice crash. Dale Earnhardt died February 18, 2001 on the final lap of the 2001 race while leading the race & protecting Dale Jr. & Michael Waltrip. (see photo below)
Click for Dale Earnhardt & Terry Bradshaw Pace Car pre-race ride! It’s out of control!
Click for Daytona 500 history link
Click for Daytona ISC Archives – photos & info
Check out the site for more links to Daytona, GMMG and other cool sites.
The First Daytona 500
On February 22, 1959, Daytona International Speedway hosted the first Daytona 500. The posted awards for the “500-Mile International Sweepstakes” totaled $67,760. A field of 59 cars took the green flag for the start of the 200-lap race. A crowd of 41,000 was on hand to witness the beginning of another chapter in the history of racing in Daytona.
The finish of the race also went into the history books. The finish was too close to call, but Johnny Beauchamp went to Victory Lane and savored the celebration although the results were posted as “unofficial.”
Sixty-one hours later, Lee Petty was the winner in what appeared to be a dead heat between Petty and Beauchamp – with the lapped car of Joe Weatherly making it a three-wide finish at the checkered flag. A clip of newsreel footage proved that Petty was the winner by a few feet.
The Daytona 500 – 50 Years And Still Growing
Fifty years later, the Daytona 500 is NASCAR’s biggest, richest and most prestigious race.
“The Great American Race,” which traditionally hosts a sell out crowd, has the biggest total payout in prize money for any motorsports event in the United States, surpassing the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400. The 2007 Daytona 500 posted awards exceed more than $18 million with race winner Kevin Harvick pocketing more than $1.5 million.
The perks of winning the Daytona 500 are more than just collecting the largest payout in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series or hoisting the prestigious Harley J. Earl trophy. Winning stock car racing’s greatest prize also brings fame and fortune.
“It’s the ultimate race,” said three-time Daytona 500 winner Jeff Gordon following his 2005 Daytona 500 victory. “There’s just no better place to win at than Daytona. You know the sport’s getting more competitive. It’s getting bigger and it’s just one of those races if you pick one, this is the one you want to win.”
Traditionally, following a victory in the Daytona 500, the winner goes on a whirlwind media tour that includes visits to New York City and Los Angeles with appearances on such a high-profile shows like “Late Show with David Letterman” and “Live with Regis and Kelly.”
In addition, the Daytona 500 winning car rests inside Daytona 500 Experience, “The Official Attraction of NASCAR,” for a year for race fans to view and the winning driver has his hand prints, right foot and autograph immortalized in cement at the Daytona 500 Champion’s Walk Of Fame.
Bill Davis Racing reaped a huge benefit after their 2002 Daytona 500 win with then-driver Ward Burton in the form of a sponsorship deal.
Caterpillar, who was in the final year of a sponsorship contract on the No. 22 car, opted to extend its sponsorship agreement and the Daytona 500 victory was a major factor in the decision.
“You hope it wasn’t the only thing it was based on, but it probably made a difference,” Davis said. “The team that they believed in, the team they had been with for four years, had done them a good enough job that they would look at five more years.
“Certainly, winning the biggest race, winning the Super Bowl, winning the Masters, winning the World Series, didn’t hurt.”
Besides the financial aspect of winning the Daytona 500, the victory can also elevate a driver’s status in the sport.
“Winning a race during Speedweeks, it makes you quite a bit more valuable, I think, in the sport as a driver,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr., the 2004 Daytona 500 winner. “Winning any race at Daytona, it’s like going into Yankee Stadium and winning a game. It further solidifies you as a driver.”
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Elliott Sadler has yet to win a Daytona 500 but knows the impact would be huge for his career.
“If you win the Daytona 500, it will stay with you throughout your racing career,” Sadler said. “It’s really helped a lot of people catapult their careers up to the next level. There are a few races that if a driver wins, owners and sponsors really pay attention too.”
Said 1990 Daytona 500 champion Derrike Cope: “When you say you have a Daytona 500 win, that’s like a Super Bowl ring.”
#0043 Non-Graphic Car (Never prepared – the fifth car)
Owned by Daytona Speedway
Joe Kelly from Daytona informed me that the car had the graphics package installed & it was later removed.
When George I & visited the Daytona Archives in 2006 we looked at the car & took photos. We saw no indication that the graphics were ever on the car. Can anyone provide information that will support the theory that the car had or never had the graphics?
We were also informed that the car was currently being used as a ‘daily-driver’ @ Daytona in 2006.
Checkered & Yellow Flag ending the race.
Dale Jarrett is the winner of the 2000 Daytona 500.
There was a rumor that Dale Jarrett was given a Pace Car for winning the race BUT I got a call from his people on January 30, 2006 saying it’s ONLY a rumor!
Dale Earnhardt, Sr. died in a last lap racing accident February 18, 2001 @ Daytona.
These photos (taken by David Saad) of Dale, Sr. getting in the car before the race were some of the very last photos.
I watched David grow up on Half Moon Lake,WI, taught him how to water-ski & barefoot ski.
July 4, 1984 – President Reagan attends the race @ Daytona
#43 & Air Force One landing is an amazing photo.
Richard Petty wins his 200th Race beating Cale Yarbough by a fender & the President is there.
Only four cars were built plus one non-graphics car.
#0029 Split-Field Car is owned by George
2 of the 4 CORRECT REAL Pace Cars (The only four in the world!)
#0045 & #0058
#0029 George’s Car at Daytona USA
Click for 0045 @ BIR 40th Anniversary.
Jeff Chew (Pontiac Racing) wrote me a note on May 11, 2006 documenting the FIVE ‘REAL’ Daytona Pace Cars
0029 – Split-Field Car (George) – 0031 Lead Camera Car, 0045 & 0058 Festival Cars are in the Jim Smith Collection
(0043 is @ Daytona Archives & does not have any graphics or strobes)
The 2000 Grand Prix GTP & 2000 Monte Carlo SS were the official Pace Cars of NASCAR in 2000.
Thirteen races used the Monte Carol SS
(which were NOT street legal & WERE NOT released to the public).
The rest of the 2000 NASCAR Races used the Grand Prix GTP’s.
NASCAR used 29 special prepared Grand Prix GTP Pace Cars in 2000 for the Winston Cup Series & they ALL had the same ‘Pontiac Racing’ graphics package.
Four special ‘silver’ Daytona Cars were used ONLY at Daytona & 24 ‘white’ cars were used at other tracks.
2000 GTP Pace Car Replica’s were built
Replica Pace Cars had sun roof’s – The 5 REAL Deal Pace Cars did not have sun roofs
If it has a sun roof, it’s a replica
The FIVE special silver Daytona Pace Cars were built to commerate the ‘First Race of the New Millenium’.
The FIVE ‘silver’ cars were modified by TDM as “Daytona 500 Pace Car Editions” (sun roof delete) 0029, 0031, 0043, 0045, 0058
2000 Replica Pace Cars were built & they all had sun roofs.
The ‘white’ Pace Cars DID NOT have some of the features unique to the “FIVE Daytona 500 Cars”. (Roof rail fences, the Daytona 500 embroidered seats, etc.)
Other tracks used the ‘white’ for multiple races BUT the silver Daytona 500 Cars were ONLY USED for 2000 Speed Weeks.
Click for Dale Earnhardt’s Fatal Crash with Pace Car in the last frame.
DO NOT COPY OR DUPLICATE THESE PHOTOS!
Photos in memory of David Saad & Dale Earnhardt, Sr.