Daytona 500: 10 fast facts about 'The Great American Race'
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The 65th running of the Daytona 500 is Sunday with defending champ Austin Cindric hoping to repeat this year as he competes against the sport's best drivers.
NASCAR is also celebrating the start of its 75th season with nine winners of both the Daytona 500 and a Cup Series championship giving the command for drivers to start their engines at the Daytona 500.
Here are some fast facts about "The Great American Race," as well as some of its most memorable moments:
1) The Daytona 500 is held at the Daytona International Speedway, beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 19 on FOX. The 500-mile race takes 200 laps to complete.
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2) The history of Daytona International Speedway began with a man named Bill France, Sr., who dabbled in racing for years and eventually founded NASCAR in 1947. By 1953, he realized that development was going to make it nearly impossible to continue racing a course that utilized the city and the beach, so he began plans on a permanent speedway. He signed a $2.5 million agreement the next year to build what would become Daytona International Speedway, the "World Center of Racing." The famous 31-degree high banks were included in the design of the track so higher speeds could be achieved while also making it easier for fans to see the cars race around the 2.5-mile tri-oval.
PIKEVILLE, MD - 1931: Bill France, Sr., was an early open-wheel race driver long before he embraced the future with full-bodied, stock cars. Here he shows off this Model T-based sprinter at a track in Maryland, in 1931. (Photo by ISC Archives/CQ-Roll
3) Racing moved from the beach-road course to Daytona International Speedway in 1959, and the first Daytona 500 took place on Feb. 22 in front of a crowd of over 41,000, according to the official website. Car entries included both hard tops and convertibles, and this was the only 500 race that included convertibles.
4) The first shortened Daytona 500 happened in 1965 when rain gave Fred Lorenzen the victory after 133 of the 200 laps.
Fred Lorenzen before the start of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 14, 1965, in Daytona Beach, Florida. Lorenzen won in his Holman-Moody 1965 Ford Galaxy. (Photo by ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images)
5) In 1976, Janet Guthrie was the first female driver to compete in the Daytona 500, finishing 12th.
6) The 1979 Daytona 500 race was televised live from beginning to end for the first time in event history by CBS Sports, and Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison crashed on the final lap while battling for the lead. Yarborough and Allison then began to fight, and Allison’s brother, Bobby, joined the brawl. It was later picked as NASCAR’s most memorable race.
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 18, 1979: Track emergency workers try to break up a fight between Cale Yarborough, Donnie Allison, and Bobby Allison after Yarborough and Donnie Allison crashed on the final lap while battling for the lead in the Daytona
7) Dale Earnhardt suffered one of the greatest upsets in Daytona 500 history in 1990 when he cut a tire in the third turn of the final lap and Derrike Cope stole the win. In 1998, in his 20th attempt, Earnhardt finally earned his first and only Daytona 500 victory.
8) In 2001, Dale Earnhardt died from a crash during the last lap of the Daytona 500, widely considered the darkest day in the history of NASCAR. NASCAR returned to Daytona that July still reeling from Earnhardt’s death and the 400-mile night race was won by Dale Earnhardt Jr. — his first career Daytona victory and 11 years to the day that his father got his first NASCAR Cup Series win at Daytona.
NASCAR Pepsi 400, Dale Earhardt Jr, victorious with the trophy after a race in Daytona, FL, on July 7, 2001. (Photo by Bob Rosato/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)
9) Danica Patrick’s eighth-place finish in 2013 made her the highest-finishing woman racer in the Daytona 500 and the first to lead laps under a green flag. That same year, International Speedway Corp. announced a $400 million renovation to modernize the speedway. The massive project broke ground in July 2013 and the venue was completed in January 2016 for the 54th running of the Rolex 24. The redesign included five expanded and redesigned entrances, while three different concourse levels featured social areas, or "neighborhoods."
10) In 2023, the Daytona 500 sold out for the eighth consecutive year, this one recognizing the 75th anniversary of NASCAR.
This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.