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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

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0029 – Split-Field Car (George) – 0031 Lead Camera Car, 0045 & 0058 Festival Cars are in the Jim Smith Collection

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(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.

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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.

 

 

Petty, president, historic victory define NASCAR

Landmark moment still resounds 25 years later

Posted in:

President Ronald Reagan with Ned Jarrett in one of the Tower Wuites during the 1984 Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway. (N-J file)
President Ronald Reagan, aboard Air Force One, lands at Daytona International Airport as Richard Petty turns a lap along the backstretch of Daytona International Speedway during the Firecracker 400 on July 4, 1984. (N-J file)
Richard Petty (43) takes the checkered flag just inches ahead of Cale Yarborough (28) to win the Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway July 4, 1984. This marked Petty’s 200th career victory. (N-J file)

DAYTONA BEACH — Richard Petty beat Cale Yarborough by the width of his front bumper to win the 1984 Firecracker 400 and score his 200th career victory with President Ronald Reagan watching from a VIP suite.

It was a victory for the ages, putting racing on the front pages of newspapers across the country and NASCAR on nightly newscasts. With Reagan present, it gave stock-car racing a new legitimacy as a major sport.

Mike Curb helped pull it all together.

The founder of Curb Records was not only Petty’s car owner at the time, but also a friend of NASCAR president Bill France Jr. and an adviser to Reagan.

Curb describes his experience on this day 25 years ago as something of a dream sequence.

“I still cannot believe it happened, ” he said.

Petty landed at Curb Racing after an internal squabble at Petty Enterprises Inc. Petty had been fined for an oversized engine after winning a NASCAR Cup race at Charlotte near the end of the 1983 season.

Curb was in the process of building his own Cup team for the 1984 season.

“About two weeks after the oversized-engine incident at Charlotte, Bill Jr. called me and said, ‘Are you sitting down? I have a driver I want to recommend to you.’ ”

“I asked him, ‘Why do I need to sit down? I’ve had about 25 drivers call me about driving my car.’ So I sat down and Bill said, ‘Your driver will be Richard Petty.’ ”

As the 1984 season progressed, Petty won his 199th Cup race at Dover International Speedway. Soon after that race, Curb recommended to Reagan’s staff that the president attend the summer race on the Fourth of July at Daytona International Speedway.

“They wanted him to do something patriotic, ” Curb said.

The president liked the idea. It turns out that early in Reagan’s broadcast career, he was a short-track announcer.

“He knew of Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty, ” Curb said. “I told them, ‘If you tell me you are interested, I’ll call Bill France Jr., but if I call and tell him he’s going to come and he doesn’t go, they might not allow me back at the track.’ ”

France was able to work out the details and logistics, which included heavy security at the Speedway on race day.

Reagan, who was the grand marshal, gave the “gentlemen, start your engines” command via telephone from Air Force One, which landed here about 60 laps into the 160-lap race.

As the race progressed, it came down to a two-car battle between Yarborough and Petty, two of the sport’s biggest stars.

When Doug Heveron spun his No. 01 Chevrolet in Turn 1 on Lap 156, it created a one-lap shootout scenario for the victory. NASCAR threw the yellow flag just after Petty and Yarborough screamed past the finish line.

“I happened to be leading, and Cale was running second so we come down to I guess three laps to go and as we came across the start/finish line and that’s when we raced back to the flag, ” Petty said. “So, Cale and myself knew that this was the last lap.”

Yarborough passed Petty for the lead going into Turn 3 on Lap 158, but when Yarborough’s Chevrolet washed up the banking, Petty was able to pull even with his stock-car nemesis.

“I pulled in beside him, and we are hung side-by-side going into Turn 4, into four, down the front stretch, ” Petty said. “And I happened to be on the inside lane, and when we got to the dogleg, then we both turn and my car runs 3-foot shorter than his and I wind up winning the race.”

The cars slowed, and when the pack came around to complete Lap 159, Yarborough darted into the pits, thinking the race was over.

“I guess my brain blew up, ” Yarborough said after the race that day.

Harry Gant was scored second and Yarborough third after Yarborough pitted.

Afterward, Petty parked his car at the finish line, and he bounced up the grandstand stairs to meet with Reagan.

“I wander up, go up in and talk to the president a little bit up there, and he’s kind of blown away because, you know, we are running side-by-side and smoke is coming off the car and running 200 mph. Blew his mind. He had not seen anything particularly like that, ” Petty said.

Because of the circumstances of the day, many believe the 1984 Firecracker 400 is one of the landmark moments in the evolution of NASCAR.

With Reagan in attendance, “The King” of stock-car racing achieved a milestone victory in a heart-stopping finish at the birthplace of the sport.

“In one fan vote, they had the 1984 Firecracker 400 as the most significant stock-car race in history, ” Curb said. “The 1979 Daytona 500 was big (as the first nationally televised race). But this race is right up there.”

Twenty-five years after that magic day, Curb remains in the sport as a NASCAR Nationwide Series car owner, with driver Jason Keller. Petty is part owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, which fields four Sprint Cup cars.

The two men reunited Wednesday night at a Daytona State College function. Petty will drive his No. 43 Pontiac during tonight’s pace laps before the Coke Zero 400 goes green.

“It almost feels like I was playing fantasy auto racing, but it was for real, ” Curb said. “It sounds like someone wrote a script. Someday, I think we’ll figure out how it happened.”

Year Car Type
1959 Pontiac Bonneville convertible
1960 Buick convertible
1961 Pontiac Bonneville convertible
1962 Pontiac Bonneville convertible
1963 Buick convertible
1964 Dodge Coronet convertible
1965 Dodge Coronet convertible
1966 Plymouth Belvedere convertible
1967 Pontiac Firebird
1968 Chevrolet Camaro convertible
1969 Chevrolet Camaro convertible
1970 Ford Torino GT convertible
1971 Porsche Audi 914
1972 Pontiac LeMans
1973 Pontiac LeMans
1974 Pontiac Grand Am
1975 Pontiac LeMans
1976 Pontiac Grand Prix
1977 Pontiac Grand Prix
1978 Pontiac Grand Prix
1979 Pontiac Trans-Am
1980 Pontiac Turbo Trans-Am
1981 Pontiac Turbo Trans-Am
1982 Pontiac Trans-Am
1983 Pontiac Trans-Am
1984 Pontiac Trans-Am
1985 Pontiac Trans-Am
1986 Pontiac Trans-Am
1987 Pontiac Trans-Am
1988 Pontiac Grand Prix
1989 Pontiac Turbo Grand Prix
1990 Pontiac Turbo Grand Prix
1991 Pontiac Grand Prix
1992 Pontiac Grand Prix
1993 Pontiac Trans-Am
1994 Pontiac Trans-Am
1995 Pontiac Trans-Am
1996 Pontiac Trans-Am
1997 Pontiac Grand Prix
1998 Pontiac Grand Prix
1999 Pontiac Trans-Am
2000 Pontiac Grand Prix
2001 Pontiac Aztec
2002 Pontiac Trans-Am
2003 Pontiac Grand Prix
2004 Chevrolet Corvette
2005 Chevrolet Corvette
2006 Chevrolet Corvette
2007 Chevrolet Corvette
2008 Chevrolet Corvette
2009 Chevrolet Camaro
2010 Ford Mustang GT
2011 Chevrolet Camaro

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