Daytona 500: Stock Car Racing’s Biggest Spectacle

Lee Petty, center, beats Johnny Beauchamp to the finish line of the first Daytona 500 in 1959. Joe Weatherly, in the top car, was a lap back.

On this date in 1959, Lee Petty won the first Daytona 500.

Here are some things you may not have known about stock car racing’s crown jewel.

The Daytona 500 is the direct descendant of earlier races held on the Daytona Beach Road Course. Stock car races were held on a stretch of Daytona Beach and an adjacent stretch of highway. The first stock car race held on the course took place in 1936.

NASCAR, the stock car sanctioning body, was formed in 1948, and its top series included races on the beach course until 1958. Five years prior to the final beach race, Bill France Sr., the founder of NASCAR, began planning a paved 2 1/2-mile superspeedway called Daytona International Speedway.

Construction began in 1957, on the high-banked oval. The banking proved to be a construction hurdle, as normal paving equipment couldn’t stand upright on the 31-degree turns. The track’s architect, Charles Moneypenny, designed a system that anchored the equipment from the top of the banking. He later patented the method.

The first race drew 42,000 fans to the new facility, where they saw Lee Petty beat Johnny Beauchamp in a photo finish that wasn’t decided for three days.

The Daytona 500 wasn’t the first 500-mile NASCAR race. The first Southern 500 was held in Darlington, South Carolina, in 1950.

1974 saw the only time the Daytona 500 was not a true 500-mile race. As a result of the oil embargo, the race was shortened to 450 miles. Officials did this by symbolically starting the race on the 21st lap.

Lee Petty’s son, Richard Petty, would go on to win the race a record seven times between 1964 and 1981. 11 drivers have won the race more than once. Chevrolet is the winningest manufacturer with 23 victories, ahead of Ford with 14 victories.

The youngest driver to win the Daytona 500 was Trevor Bayne, who was 20 years and one day old in 2011. The oldest was Bobby Allison, who won it in 1988 at 50 years and 73 days.

Our question: Who is the only driver born outside the United States to win the Daytona 500?


Today is Independence Day in Saint Lucia.

It’s unofficially Be Humble Day, Walking the Dog Day, and Margarita Day.

It’s the birthday of George Washington, who was born in 1732; founder of the Boy Scouts Robert Baden-Powell, who was born in 1857; and basketball legend Julius Erving, who is 67.


This week in 1959, the top song in the U.S. was “Stagger Lee” by Lloyd Price.

The top grossing film was was “Ben-Hur,” while the novel “Doctor Zhivago” by Boris Pasternak topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.


Weekly question: Who is the most prolific inventor, in terms of total number of patents?

Submit your answer at and we’ll add the name of the person with the first correct answer to our winner’s wall … at We’ll have the correct answer on Friday’s episode.



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