Daytona Beach Gears Up for 2017 Speedweeks/Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway

Feb 10, 2017

By Rich W.

“The winner ain't the one with the fastest car; it's the one who refuses to lose.” – Dale Earnhardt

In just over a week, diehard NASCAR fans will start descending upon the legendary Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, for 2017 Speedweeks, which culminates with “The Great American Race” itself – the 59th edition of the fabled Daytona 500 on Sunday, February 26. The Daytona 500 serves as the official beginning of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Highlights of 2017 Speedweeks include the Advance Auto Parts Clash (February 18), Daytona 500 Qualifying by Kroger (February 19), Can-Am Duel (February 23), NextEra Energy Resources 250 (February 24), PowerShares QQQ 300 (February 25) and Daytona 500 (February 26), which will be contested over 200 laps on the 2.5-mile superspeedway. The Daytona 500 will be broadcast on Fox starting at 2 PM EST and can also be viewed on the FoxSportsGO app.

The Daytona 500 pre-race show will feature the talents of multi-Platinum trio Lady Antebellum. In addition, the pre-race UNOH Fanzone will offer driver appearances, autograph sessions, pre-race access, live entertainment and more. Actor Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers), the voice of the animated character “Lightning McQueen” in Disney•Pixar’s upcoming movie Cars 3, will serve as Daytona 500 Grand Marshal. NFL great LaDainian Tomlinson, who was recently elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, has been selected as Honorary Starter for the Daytona 500 – “The Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing!”

Daytona 500 Trivia

  • The inaugural Daytona 500 in 1959 proved to be a true nail-biter as Lee Petty (Richard’s father) edged out Johnny Beauchamp to win the race in a photo finish by a margin of less than a yard (Beauchamp was initially given the victory but NASCAR finally reversed the decision and gave Petty the trophy after scrutinizing the photos for three days).

  • In 1966, Richard “The King” Petty became the first two-time winner of the Daytona 500, having won previously in 1964. Petty would go on to win the Daytona 500 a record seven times (1964, 1966, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1979 and 1981).

  • The 1976 Daytona 500 showcased the fierce rivalry between NASCAR legends Richard Petty and David Pearson. After battling back-and-forth the whole race, both cars crashed and spun into the infield as they came off the final turn of the race. Petty was stuck but Pearson was somehow able to start up his car and claim the checkered flag.

  • In 1977, Janet Guthrie became the first woman to compete in the Daytona 500 (she finished 12th in the race).

  • During the final lap of the 1979 Daytona 500, Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison collided with each other on the backstretch and proceeded to get into a fistfight in the infield. Richard Petty took advantage of the chaos to capture the checkered flag for his sixth Daytona 500 victory.

  • In 1980, Buddy Baker won the Daytona 500 with the fastest average time in race history (177.602 mph).

  • Cale Yarborough was the first driver in Daytona 500 history to run a qualifying lap over 200 mph in 1983.

  • “Million Dollar Bill” Elliott set an all-time Daytona 500 record in 1987 when he qualified for the pole position at 210.364 mph.

  • In 1988, Bobby Allison became the oldest driver ever to win the Daytona 500 at the age of 50. To top it off, Allison’s son, Davey, finished second.

  • After just barely holding off Ken Schrader for his first Daytona 500 victory in 1989, Darrell Waltrip broke into his own rendition of the “Ickey Shuffle” dance (made famous by Elbert “Ickey” Woods of the Cincinnati Bengals).

  • During his 20th try, NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt finally made it to Victory Lane at the Daytona 500 in 1998. Tragically, three years later Earnhardt would die in a crash during the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.

  • Due to a rainstorm, the 2003 race became the shortest Daytona 500 in history, ending after just 109 laps (Michael Waltrip captured the checkered flag).

  • After just his second Sprint Cup start, 20-year-old Trevor Bayne (he had just turned 20 the day before!) overcame a late charge by Carl Edwards to become the youngest Daytona 500 winner in race history in 2011.

  • In 2013, Danica Patrick made history when she became the first woman in NASCAR’s premier division to win a pole for the “The Great American Race” during just her second Daytona 500 start.

  • Each Daytona 500 winner receives the Harley J. Earl Trophy, named in honor of automobile designer and second commissioner of NASCAR, Harley Earl, who was known as the “Father of the Corvette.”

  • Multiple Daytona 500 winners include Richard Petty (7), Cale Yarborough (4), Bobby Allison (3), Dale Jarrett (3), Jeff Gordon (3), Bill Elliott (2), Sterling Marlin (2), Michael Waltrip (2), Matt Kenseth (2), Jimmie Johnson (2) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2).

  • Dave Marcis holds the record for most career starts in the Daytona 500 with 33. His best finish was sixth in both 1975 and 1978.

  • Mario Andretti and A. J. Foyt are the only two drivers who have won both the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500.

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