DAYTONA, Fla. (WSYR-TV) — The 62nd running of the Daytona 500 is February 16 at what NASCAR calls the World Center of Racing, Daytona International Speedway.
Just how big is the track? Pretty big, 2.5 miles long, that’s identical in length to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Daytona is edged out in overall length for oval tracks in NASCAR’s circuit by Daytona’s twin, Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama at 2.66 miles.
The 500 in the name of the race is the number of miles in the race. This calculates to 200 laps.
When you drive down the interstate, the turns are slightly banked so it is easier to maintain control and is a more comfortable ride. At Daytona the turns are banked 31 degrees. The curve at the start finish line is banked at 18 degrees.
Denny Hamlin won 2019’s Daytona 500.
Lee Petty was the first driver to win the Daytona 500. His son, Richard “The King” Petty, has won the most Daytona 500’s with seven.
Dale Earnhardt Sr., won a total of 34 races at Daytona. That number includes the annual July 4th weekend race, Daytona qualifying races, NASCAR’s second tier division races known as the Xfinity series and exhibition races. However, that total includes only one win for the Daytona 500. That victory came in 1998 on his 20th attempt.
The first Daytona race to be televised in its entirety aired on CBS in 1979. At a time before cable TV was widespread and with a major snowstorm hitting the east coast, ratings for that first race were huge. It ended when second place driver Cale Yarborough tried to pass leader Donnie Allison on the last lap. both cars wrecked and allowed third place driver Richard Petty to win. Donnie Allison’s brother, Bobby, stopped his car at the scene of his brother’s crash and the three drivers fought on national TV.
Darrell Waltrip won the Daytona 500 on his 17th try, driving the number 17 car.
Two drivers have won both the iconic Indianapolis 500 and Daytona 500, Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt.
There’s a lot more going on in Daytona than the 500. Racing started with the ARCA series races last Saturday, qualifying sessions for the 500 a week ago, as well as the Busch Clash race. Thursday night NASCAR held qualifying races for the 500. Friday night the speedway hosted the truck series race, and Saturday, the Xfinity series raced.
Before the speedway was built in 1959, NASCAR races were held at Daytona Beach. On the beach. Cars raced down a section of Route A1A turned left on to the beach and then headed up the beach and turned left back on to the pavement.
There is a half marathon held in Daytona during Speedweeks. Runners take a lap around the famed track, then run to Daytona beach, run on the sand where the cars used to race, then finish across from the speedway. Seven-time NASCAR champion and two-time Daytona winner Jimmie Johnson ran the 13.1 miles this year at a 7:05 pace. He then went to the track and ran qualifying for the 500 and then drove in the Busch Clash.
NASCAR itself was born in a motel across from the beach at Daytona. In 1948 a group of drivers, car owners and promoters met to organize the sport and bring some order to stock car racing, forming the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, NASCAR.