Friday, February 13, 2009

Top 5 drivers in Daytona 500 history

As the NASCAR season get set for its official kickoff with Sunday's Daytona 500, it's a good time to consider who may be the best drivers to ever compete in the Daytona 500. Do you base it on wins? On how many events the drivers competed in? Best overall finish? There are many factors to consider. Here is our top five drivers to compete in the Daytona 500 and how we came to our judgment. Feel free to offer your own.

5. Dale Earnhardt

Earnhardt only won one Daytona 500 but his career-long effort to win NASCAR's biggest race make up some of the best storylines associated with the race. For nearly his entire career, the 500 trophy was the only thing missing from his extensive NASCAR resume, which includes a record-tying seven Cup series championships. The 2001 Daytona 500, ironically, was also where his career ended, as he was killed in a last-lap crash while a car he owned, driven by Michael Waltrip, won the race.

4. Dale Jarrett
Jarrett won the 1993 Daytona 500 over Earnhardt - often referred to as "The Dale and Dale Show" - in a race called in the broadcast TV booth by his father and former NASCAR champion, Ned Jarrett. Dale Jarrett also won the 500 in 1996 and 2000. His 1996 victory also came with Earnhardt as runner-up but it wasn't easy as Jarrett held off Earnhardt's advances over the final 24 laps.

3. Bobby Allison
Allison was no stranger to success at Daytona and managed three 500 victories, including his final career Cup series win in the 1988 season. That race also featured the first one-two father/son finish, with his son Davey Allison coming in second. Bobby Allison was also the oldest driver (50 years gold) to ever win 500. Bobby also was involved in the notorious infield fight in the 1979 500 involving himself, his brother, Donnie, and Cale Yarborough.

2. Cale Yarborough
Yarborough won the Daytona 500 four times - his first win coming in 1968 for the Wood Brothers, the second in 1977 for Junior Johnson, and back-to-back wins in 1983 and 1984. His 1984 victory came on the heels of an impressive qualifying effort as Yarborough became the first driver to qualify for the 500 with a speed of more than 200 mph.

1. Richard Petty

Petty holds so many NASCAR records it shouldn't be a surprise he also has the most 500 victories (seven). His most memorable 500 may be one he lost. In the 1976 race, he and David Pearson wrecked just yards from the finish line. Pearson was able to restart his engine, drove through the infield grass around Petty's wrecked car, and was declared the winner.

--- Jim Utter


Anonymous said...

It's difficult for me to understand why Dale Earnhardt is at the top of the list when he won the 500 only once. Your list should be reversed with Petty being number 1.

Don S

Anonymous said...

He is number 1 read the numbers beside each driver. He listed from last to first.

Anonymous said...

DUH!!! to the guy that didn't see the #5 beside Earnhart and the #1 beside Petty.

Anonymous said...

How is Jeff Gordon not on this list?

Anonymous said...

I think it's a good list, but there are others who should be recognized.

Buddy Baker, Jeff Gordon, David Pearson, Michael Waltrip, and Bill Elliott deserve an honorable mention.