The Daytona 500 is a 500-mile-long (805 km) Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series motor race held annually at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. It is the first of two Cup races held every year at Daytona, the second being the Coke Zero 400. It is one of the four restrictor plate races on the Cup schedule. The inaugural Daytona 500 was held in 1959 coinciding with the opening of the speedway and since 1982, it has been the season-opening race of the Cup series.
The Daytona 500 is regarded as the most important and prestigious race on the NASCAR calendar, carrying by far the largest purse. Championship points awarded are equal to that of any other Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. It is also the series' first race of the year; this phenomenon is virtually unique in sports, which tend to have championships or other major events at the end of the season rather than the start. Since 1995, U.S. television ratings for the Daytona 500 have been the highest for any auto race of the year, surpassing the traditional leader, the Indianapolis 500 which in turn greatly surpasses the Daytona 500 in in-track attendance and international viewing. The 2006 Daytona 500 attracted the sixth largest average live global TV audience of any sporting event that year with 20 million viewers.
The race serves as the final event of Speedweeks and is sometimes known as "The Great American Race" or the "Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing". Since the first race, all 59 runnings of the Daytona 500 have been held in the month of February. From 1971 to 2011, it was associated with Presidents Day weekend, taking place on the Sunday before the third Monday in February. Beginning in 2012, the race was pushed up a week, to the last Sunday of February. Because of inclement weather conditions on February 26, the 2012 Daytona 500 was postponed until the evening of Monday, February 27. The 2013 Daytona 500 was held on February 24, the first time the race was held on the last Sunday of February.
The winner of the Daytona 500 is presented with the Harley J. Earl Trophy in Victory Lane, and the winning car is displayed in race-winning condition for one year at Daytona 500 Experience, a museum and gallery adjacent to Daytona International Speedway.
The race is the direct successor of shorter races held on the Daytona Beach Road Course. This long square was partially on the sand and also on the highway near the beach. Earlier events featured 200-mile (320 km) races with stock cars. Eventually, a 500-mile (805 km) stock car race was held at Daytona International Speedway in 1959. It was the second 500-mile NASCAR race, following the annual Southern 500, and has been held every year since. By 1961, it began to be referred to as the Daytona 500, by which it is still commonly known.
Daytona International Speedway is 2.5 miles (4 km) long and a 500-mile race requires 200 laps to complete. However, the race is considered official after half its distance (100 laps and 250 miles (400 km)) has been completed. The race has been shortened four times due to rain (in 1965, 1966, 2003, and 2009) and once in response to the energy crisis of 1974. Since the adaptation of the green–white–checker finish rule in 2004, the race has gone past 500 miles on seven occasions (2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2015). the Daytona 500 also has the big pool in the infield by the back straightaway.1959: Lee Petty, patriarch of the racing family, won the inaugural Daytona 500 on February 22, 1959, defeating Johnny Beauchamp.1960: Junior Johnson made use of the draft, then a little-understood phenomenon, to win while running a slower, year-old car in a field of 68 cars, most in Daytona 500 history through the present day.1965: The first rain-shortened Daytona 500 was the 1965 event. Fred Lorenzen was in the lead when the race was called on lap 133 of 200.1966: Richard Petty becomes the first two-time winner, having previously won the 1964 race. Through 2015, only 11 drivers have won 2 or more Daytona 500s.1967: Mario Andretti led 112 of the 200 laps including the last 33 to capture his first and only win in the Cup Series.1968: For much of this race, both Cale Yarborough and LeeRoy Yarbrough traded the lead. With 5 laps to go, Yarborough made a successful slingshot pass on the third turn to take the lead from Yarbrough and never looked back as he won his first Daytona 500 by 1.3 seconds.1969: Just like a year earlier, LeeRoy Yarbrough would inflict the same treatment on Charlie Glotzbach, scoring the victory on the last lap.1971: Richard Petty becomes the first three-time winner, including the 1964 and 1966 races. Through 2015, only 5 drivers have won 3 or more Daytona 500s.1972: A. J. Foyt cruised into the lead on lap 80 and stayed there through the 200 lap race, lapping the entire field. Foyt beat second place Charlie Glotzbach by nearly two laps, with Jim Vandiver finishing 6 laps down in third.1973: Richard Petty becomes the first four-time winner, including the 1964, 1966 and 1971 races . Through 2015, only Petty (7 total) and Cale Yarborough have won 4 Daytona 500s.1974: During the start of the 1974 NASCAR season, many races had their distance cut ten percent in response to the 1973 oil crisis. As a result, the 1974 Daytona 500 was shortened to 180 laps (450 miles), as symbolically, the race "started" on lap 21. Richard Petty became the first of only 3 drivers (through 2015) to win consecutive Daytona 500s, while also setting a mark of 5 total wins.1976: In the 1976 race, Richard Petty was leading on the last lap when he was passed on the backstretch by David Pearson. Petty tried to turn under Pearson coming off the final corner, but didn't clear Pearson. The contact caused the drivers to spin into the grass in the infield just short of the finish line. Petty's car didn't start, but Pearson was able to keep his car running and limp over the finish line for the win. Many fans consider this finish to be the greatest in the history of NASCAR.1979: The 1979 race was the first Daytona 500 to be broadcast live on national television, airing on CBS, whose audience was increased in much of the Eastern and Midwestern USA due to a blizzard. (The Indianapolis 500 was only broadcast on tape delay that evening in this era; most races were broadcast only through the final quarter to half of the race, as was the procedure for ABC's Championship Auto Racing broadcasts; with the new CBS contract, the network and NASCAR agreed to a full live broadcast.) That telecast introduced in-car and low-level track-side cameras, which has now become standard in all sorts of automotive racing broadcasts. A final lap crash and subsequent fight between leaders Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison (along with Donnie's brother Bobby) brought national (if unwelcome) publicity to NASCAR, with the added emphasis of a snowstorm that bogged down much of the northeastern part of the United States. Donnie Allison was leading the race on the final lap with Yarborough drafting him tightly. As Yarborough attempted a slingshot pass at the end of the backstretch, Allison attempted to block him. Yarborough refused to give ground and as he pulled alongside Allison, his left side tires left the pavement and went into the wet and muddy infield grass. Yarborough lost control of his car and contacted Allison's car halfway down the backstretch. As both drivers tried to regain control, their cars made contact several more times before finally locking together and crashing into the outside wall in turn three. After the cars settled in the grass, Donnie Allison and Yarborough began to argue. After they had talked it out, Bobby Allison, who was lapped at that point, pulled over, began defending his brother, and a fight broke out. Richard Petty, who was over half a lap behind at the time, went on to win; with the brawl in the infield, the television audience scarcely noticed. The story was the talk of the water cooler the next day, even making the front page of The New York Times Sports section.1980: Buddy Baker won the fastest Daytona 500 in history, at 177.602 mph (285.809 km/h).1981: Richard Petty becomes the first seven-time winner, three wins more than the second highest multiple winner, Cale Yarborough. With wins in 1964, 1966, 1971, 1973, 1974, and 1979, Petty is the only driver to win in three different decades.1982: The Daytona 500 becomes the opening race in the NASCAR season, a position held since.1983: Cale Yarborough was the first driver to run a qualifying lap over 200 mph (320 km/h) in his Chevrolet Monte Carlo.1984: Cale Yarborough completed a lap of 201.848 mph (324.843 km/h), officially breaking the 200 mph (320 km/h) barrier at Daytona. He joined Richard Petty as the only drivers to win the race in consecutive years and to win the race four times overall.1985: Bill Elliott dominated the race, and by lap 140, was close to lapping the entire field. During a pit stop, NASCAR officials held him in the pit area in order to repair a supposed broken headlight assembly. The two-minute pit stop dropped him to third, barely clinging to the lead lap. Elliott made up the deficit and survived a late race caution and a final lap restart to win his first Daytona 500. Elliott would go on to win the first Winston Million.1986: The race that came down to a two-car duel between Dale Earnhardt and Geoff Bodine. With 3 laps to go, Earnhardt was forced to make a pit stop for a "splash 'n go". However, as Earnhardt left the pits, he burned a piston, allowing Bodine to cruise to victory.1987: Winner Bill Elliott qualified for the pole position at an all-time Daytona record of 210.364 mph (338.532 km/h)..1988: Restrictor plates were mandated to reduce dangerously high speeds at Daytona. Bobby Allison and his son Davey finished one-two and celebrated together in Victory Lane, making Bobby Allison the oldest driver to win the Daytona 500.1990: Dale Earnhardt appeared headed for certain victory until the closing laps. On lap 193, Geoff Bodine spun in the first turn, causing the third and final caution of the race. All of the leaders pitted except Derrike Cope, who stayed out to gain track position. On the lap 195 restart, Earnhardt re-took the lead. On the final lap, going into turn three, he ran over a bell housing from the blown engine of Rick Wilson's car. He blew a tire, allowing the relatively unknown Cope to slip by and take the his first career win in a major upset.1991: Dale Earnhardt's Daytona 500 frustrations continued as Ernie Irvan passed Earnhardt with six laps to go to. Ultimately, Earnhardt spun with two laps remaining and collected Davey Allison and Kyle Petty. Irvan took the win as the race ended under the caution flag. The race was dominated by complex pit stop rules, implemented to improve safety in the pit area.1992: Davey Allison dominated the second half en route to his lone Daytona 500 victory. He avoided a major wreck on lap 92 and went on to lead the final 102 laps.1993: On lap 170, a frightening wreck saw Rusty Wallace flip over multiple times on the back straightaway. With two laps to go, Dale Earnhardt was leading Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett. Jarrett battled into the lead with one lap to go. It was the fourth time Earnhardt had been leading the Daytona 500 with less than ten laps to go, but failed to win.1994: Sterling Marlin gambled on fuel, and was able to complete the final 59 laps without stopping, to win his first career Cup victory. During Speedweeks, two drivers died, Neil Bonnett and Rodney Orr.1995: Sterling Marlin became the first driver since Cale Yarborough, and only third overall, to win back-to-back Daytona 500s. To date, Marlin is the last driver to have won back-to-back Daytona 500s.1996: Dale Jarrett won his second Daytona 500 in four years, again holding off Dale Earnhardt, who finished second for the third time in four years.1997: Jeff Gordon became the youngest driver to win the Daytona 500.1998: Dale Earnhardt finally won the Daytona 500 after 20 years of trying. Though Earnhardt had usually been a strong competitor in the Daytona 500, mechanical problems, crashes, or other misfortunes had prevented him from winning. After his victory, a joyous Earnhardt drove slowly down pit road, where members of other race teams had lined up to give him handshakes and high-fives. Mike Joy, who was play-by-play announcer for CBS's broadcast, called the win "the most anticipated moment in racing".2001: Also known as "Black Sunday", or the "darkest day in NASCAR", as Dale Earnhardt died in a crash on the final lap. Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. were running first and second on the final lap, while Earnhardt Sr. was third. In turn 4, Earnhardt lost control after making contact from Sterling Marlin, and crashed into the outside wall, taking Ken Schrader with him. Earnhardt suffered a fatal basilar skull fracture. Waltrip would win.2003: Michael Waltrip became a two-time winner of in the shortest ever Daytona 500, after the race was shortened to 109 laps due to rain.2005: The start time was changed, allowing the race to finish under the lights at dusk. In the first use of the green-white-checker finish rule in the Daytona 500, Gordon held off Kurt Busch, and Earnhardt, Jr. to win his third Daytona 500 that saw the race go 203 laps/507.5 miles.2008: The celebrated 50th running of the Daytona 500 was the first using NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow. It also marked the first race under the "Sprint Cup Series" banner, following the merger of Sprint with Nextel in 2006.2010: The longest Daytona 500 distance, 208 laps (520 miles (840 km)), due to requiring two green-white-checker efforts to finish the race. Jamie McMurray came home with the 2010 Daytona 500 victory. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second.2011: Since this race marked the tenth anniversary of the tragic death of Dale Earnhardt, the third lap was a "silent lap", meaning the TV and radio announcers were silent during the entire lap, and fans held up three fingers in reference to Earnhardt's car number. Trevor Bayne, at 20 years and one day old, became the youngest Daytona 500 winner ever. As a curious fact, he tuned 20 years old the previous day of the race, and Darrel Waltrip said "Happy birthday Trevor Bayne!" while Trevor was celebrating his victory.2012: While 2010 was the longest distance, 2012 was the longest time to complete the race. Scheduled for a 12 noon EST start on Sunday, rain delayed the race to Monday, then further delayed it to a 7 PM start that Monday night, resulting in the first primetime Daytona 500 start (but the third to reach primetime). On lap 160, Juan Pablo Montoya crashed into a jet dryer in turn 3, sparking a lengthy red flag as crews put out the resulting fire and repaired the damage. The race finally ended at approximately 1 AM EST Tuesday morning, 37 hours after the originally scheduled start, with Matt Kenseth becoming the first repeat winner since Michael Waltrip's rain-shortened 2003 race.2013: This race saw a number of firsts. This was the first race with NASCAR's new redesigned Generation 6 body. Rookie Danica Patrick won the pole, becoming the first woman on pole in the Daytona 500. She also was the first woman to lead laps under green flag conditions in the race. Jimmie Johnson earned his second Daytona 500 victory.2014: For the second year in a row, a rookie won the pole position, in this case Austin Dillon in his first ride in the newly renumbered #3 Chevy SS for Richard Childress Racing, the first time the #3 had been used in a NASCAR Cup Series race since Dale Earnhardt's death. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., won his second Daytona 500, the third straight won by a past winner, after Kenseth in 2012 and Johnson in 2013.2015: Jeff Gordon won the pole for the final time, There were two big wrecks during the race, one with 19 laps to go for Justin Allgaier and Ty Dillon, brought out a red flag to ensue cleanup on the track, and one on lap 202 at a scheduled Green–white–checker finish, Joey Logano won his first Daytona 500.2016: Rookie Chase Elliott started the race from the pole position. Driver Denny Hamlin led 95 laps during the race, and on the last lap, Hamlin passed leader Matt Kenseth. Hamlin would then beat Martin Truex Jr. by 0.010 seconds, which would become the closest finish in the Daytona 500.
The qualifying procedure is unique for the Daytona 500. Some teams must race their way into the Daytona 500 field. The first row is set by a timed round of qualifying, held one week before the race (prior to 2003, this was two rounds; prior to 2001, it was three). The remainder of the field is set by two separate qualifying races (these were 100 miles (160 km) from 1959 to 1967; 125 miles (201 km) from 1969 to 2004; and 150 miles (240 km) with two lap overtime, if necessary, beginning in 2005 (these races were not held in 1968 due to rain). The top two drivers from the qualifying races who were not in the top 35 in owner points were given spots on the field, and the rest of the field was set by the finishing order of the duels, with guaranteed spots to those in the top 35. The remaining spots, 40 to 43, were filled by top qualifying times of those not already in the field from the qualifying race. If there was a previous NASCAR champion without a spot, he would get one of those four spots, otherwise, the fourth fastest car was added to the field.
Prior to 2005 – and beginning again in 2013 – after the top two cars were set, the top fourteen cars in the qualifying races advance to the field, and then between six (1998–2003), eight (1995–97, 2004) or 10 (until 1994) fastest cars which do not advance from the qualifying race are added, then cars in the top 35 in owner points not locked into the race, and then the driver with the championship provisional, except for 1985 when no such car was eligible for a provisional starting spot, the only time that happened in the Daytona 500 from when the provisional was added in 1976 through 2004.
The Daytona 500 was the first 500-mile (800 km) auto race to be televised live flag-to-flag on network television when CBS aired it in 1979, continuing to air until 2000.
From 2001 to 2006, the race alternated between FOX and NBC under the terms of a six–year, $2.48 billion NASCAR television contract, with FOX broadcasting the Daytona 500 in odd-numbered years (2001, 2003, 2005) and the Pepsi 400 in even-numbered years (2002, 2004, 2006) and NBC broadcasting the opposite race in that year.
In 2005, a new television contract was signed, which made FOX the sole broadcaster of the Daytona 500 for eight years, from 2007 to 2014. In 2013, 10 more years were added to the contract, giving FOX every Daytona 500 from 2015 to 2024 as well, for a total of at least 18 Daytona 500s in a row. The installation of the lighting system at Daytona International Speedway in 1998, as well as the implementations of the television packages in 2001 and 2007 respectively, have resulted in the race starting and ending much later than it did in the race's early years. The race started at 12:15 p.m. EST from 1979 until 2000. The start time was moved to 1:00 p.m. Eastern time from 2001 to 2004, 2:30 p.m. in 2005 and 2006 and 3:30 p.m. from 2007 to 2009, all for the convenience of west coast viewers. The 2005 race ended at sunset for the first time in its history, and the 2006 race ended well after sunset.
Every Daytona 500 between 2006 and 2010, as well as the 2012 and 2014 races, ended under the lights. The changing track conditions caused by the onset of darkness in the closing laps in these years forced the crew chiefs to predict the critical car setup adjustments needed for their final two pit stops. The 2007 race was the first Daytona 500 to go into prime-time, ending at 7:07 p.m. Eastern time. In 2010, the race moved back to a 1:00 p.m. start time, which should have resulted in it ending in daylight; however, two red flags caused by track surface issues led to long delays that pushed the race to 7:34 p.m. EST, pushing the race into prime-time for the second time. The 2012 race was also scheduled to start at 1:00 p.m. EST on Sunday, February 26, but heavy rain in the area caused the race to be postponed to 7:00 p.m. EST on Monday, February 27, making it the first Daytona 500 to be postponed to a Monday, as well as the first (and only) Daytona 500 to be run as a night race. Due to a two–hour red flag period after a jet dryer fire on the track with 40 laps remaining, the race did not end until about 12:40 a.m. on Tuesday, February 28. The 2013 race marked a return to the race's past tradition of ending in the late afternoon, as it ended at about 4:40 p.m., the race's earliest ending time since 2004. Although the 2014 race started around 1:30 p.m. EST, heavy rain and a tornado warning red–flagged the race after 38 laps and it was delayed for a record six hours and 22 minutes; the race finished the entire 500–mile distance around after 11:00 p.m. the same day, which effectively competed with the time delayed East Coast broadcast of NBC's coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics closing ceremony, scheduled between 7:00 and 10:30 p.m. The 2015 race started on time around 1:00 p.m., and ended after 203 laps due to a Green–white–checkered finish.
The television ratings for the Daytona 500 have surpassed those of the larger Indianapolis 500 (which has much larger physical attendance and international attendance) since 1995, even though the 1995 race was available in far fewer homes than the year before. Then-broadcaster CBS had lost well-established VHF (channels 2–13) affiliates in major markets as a result of the Fox affiliate switches of 1994. As an example, new affiliates WDJT in Milwaukee and WGNX in Atlanta — both cities that are home to NASCAR races — and WWJ in Detroit, close to Michigan International Speedway, were on the UHF band (channels 14–69), meaning that they had a significantly reduced broadcast area compared to former affiliates WITI, WAGA-TV, and WJBK, respectively. WDJT was not available in many Wisconsin markets by the time the Daytona 500 took place.
For NASCAR Grand National winners at Daytona from 1949–1958, see Daytona Beach and Road Course.
† – Andretti was born in a part of Italy that is now in Croatia, but became a naturalized American citizen. He remains the only foreign-born driver to win the race.
‡ – Record for fastest Daytona 500 at 177.602 mph (285.823 km/h) set by Buddy Baker in 1980.
1 – Originally started 39th, but had to go back to the 43rd position due to changing to a backup car after crashing in the qualifying races. A driver who crashes during the qualifying race and goes to a backup car, or after 2003, changes an engine between the first practice after the qualifying race and the Daytona 500, is relegated to the rear of the field.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Races that have been shortened:1965: 332.5 miles (133 laps) because of rain.1966: 495 miles (198 laps) because of rain.1974: 450 miles (180 laps) Race scheduled for 90% distance in response to the energy crisis; scoring began on lap 21.2003: 272.5 miles (109 laps) because of rain.2009: 380 miles (152 laps) because of rain.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Races that have been extended due to a NASCAR Overtime finish:
Note: From 2004 through 2009, only one attempt was permitted in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing. Starting from 2010 through 2015, a maximum of three attempts are permitted. But from 2016 to present, NASCAR allows the use of NASCAR Overtime.2005, 2006 and 2015: 507.5 miles (203 laps)2007 and 2012: 505 miles (202 laps)2010: 520 miles (208 laps) (two attempts — Lap 203 and Lap 207; This was the first time a NASCAR Cup Series race used the green-white-checker format two times to finish a race)2011: 520 miles (208 laps); two attempts
Only one race has been rescheduled from its original date.2012: Rescheduled from February 26 to February 27 at 12:00 noon and later rescheduled to start at 7:00 PM because of rain. (This marks the first time the Daytona 500 was moved to Monday, and the first night-time Daytona 500 race.)Two consecutive victoriesRichard Petty (1973, 1974)Cale Yarborough (1983, 1984)Sterling Marlin (1994, 1995)1962 – Fireball Roberts (also won the Twin 125s)1966 – Richard Petty1968, 1984 – Cale Yarborough (also won the 1984 Twin 125s)1980 – Buddy Baker1985, 1987 – Bill Elliott (also the 1985 Twin 125s and 1987 Busch Clash)1999 – Jeff Gordon2000 – Dale Jarrett (also won the The Clash at Daytona)PettyFather Lee (1959) and son Richard (1964, 1966, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1979, 1981)AllisonFather Bobby (1978, 1982, 1988) and son Davey (1992)The 1988 race also saw Bobby and Davey complete the third ever 1st–2nd finish by a father and son in a NASCAR Cup Series race.EarnhardtFather Dale (1998) and son Dale Jr. (2004, 2014)WaltripBrothers Darrell (1989) and Michael (2001, 2003)
Winners as both driver and ownerLee PettyOwner/driver: 1959Junior JohnsonDriver: 1960Owner: 1969, 1977Richard PettyOwner/driver: 1964, 1966, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1979, 1981Owner: 1970Dale EarnhardtDriver: 1998Owner: 2001Jeff GordonDriver: 1997, 1999, 2005Owner: 2006, 2013
Won the Daytona 500 and Advance Auto Parts Clash in same year1982 – Bobby Allison1987 – Bill Elliott (also won Daytona 500 pole position)1996, 2000 – Dale Jarrett (also won Daytona 500 pole position for the latter)1997 – Jeff Gordon2016 – Denny Hamlin
Won the Daytona 500 and Can-Am Duel in same year1962 – Fireball Roberts (also won Daytona 500 pole position)1977, 1984 – Cale Yarborough (also won Daytona 500 pole position for the latter)1985 – Bill Elliott (also won Daytona 500 pole position)1988 – Bobby Allison1995 – Sterling Marlin1998 – Dale Earnhardt2004 – Dale Earnhardt Jr.2012 – Matt Kenseth
Won the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 in same year1996 – Dale Jarrett2006 – Jimmie Johnson2010 – Jamie McMurray
Won the Daytona 500 and Coke Zero 400 in same year1962 – Fireball Roberts1968 – Cale Yarborough1969 – LeeRoy Yarbrough1982 – Bobby Allison2013 – Jimmie Johnson
Won the Daytona 500 and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship in same year1959 – Lee Petty1964, 1971, 1974, 1979 – Richard Petty1977 – Cale Yarborough1997 – Jeff Gordon2006, 2013 – Jimmie Johnson1963 – Tiny Lund1967 – Mario Andretti (Only NASCAR Cup Series win came in the Daytona 500.)1970 – Pete Hamilton1990 – Derrike Cope1994 – Sterling Marlin (Only driver whose first two career victories were the Daytona 500: 1994 & 1995)2001 – Michael Waltrip (Won the Daytona 500 after 462 races without a win)2011 – Trevor Bayne (First rookie to win the Daytona 500; won the race in his first Daytona attempt, only his second Cup race ever.)
Youngest and oldest winners of the Daytona 500Youngest: Trevor Bayne – 2011 (age 20 years, 1 day)Oldest: Bobby Allison – 1988 (age 50 years, 73 days)