Andy Sullivan: Against the Grain
When one sport ends, another begins. Last Sunday was the Superbowl. Or, as it turned out, the stupor bowl (because the game was boring). 1959 was the very first Daytona 500. Decades later and it is still going strong. Granted, it’s going to look a bit different this year (as has everything), I have a feeling it’s going to be just as exciting. Well, at least the last half should be. As I write this (Tuesday), the Busch Clash is on tap tonight. Pole qualifying will be Wednesday night. The Daytona Duals are Thursday night. The truck race is Friday. The X-Finity race is Saturday and the Daytona 500 is Sunday at 1. The night races are all at 6:00 on FS1. Now you don’t have to check the guide. Before everything gets underway, how about a trip down memory lane?
The first Daytona 50 was won by Lee Petty. His son, Richard Petty, has the most Daytona 500 victories with 7. Denny Hamlin won the Daytona 500 last year. He also won the race in 2019. Can he complete the elusive threepeat? He also won in 2016. The oldest Dayton 500 winner is Bobby Allison. He won the race in 1988 at 50 years old. The youngest Daytona 500 winner is Trevor Bayne. He won in 2011 at 20 years old. I’ll spare you the entire list of past winners. If you would like to see for yourself, head to www.sportingnews.com I imagine you can also go to www.nascar.com
My favorite Daytona 500 races are years when my favorites win. Dale Earnhardt, Jr won the race twice (2004 and 2014). Sentimental favorite, and Owensboro, KY’s own, Michael Waltrip, won in 2001 and 2003. My #1 driver ever since Dale, Jr and Michael retired is Martin Truex, Jr. He has never won the Great American Race but I’m ever hopeful. A few more tidbits: Indy 500 royalty Mario Andretti won the 500 in 1967. Richard Petty’s 1971 500 victory, where he drove his Petty Enterprises Plymouth, was the last car before acquiring STP sponsorship, which for the first time added red to the traditional all-Petty Blue paint. The distinction of luckiest winner of the Daytona 500 goes to Derrike Cope in 1990. Dale Earnhardt cut a tire on the final turn of the final lap, eliminating his solid challenge. Dale would face this bad luck until he finally won one in 1998. (www.nascar.com)
Who wins this year’s installment of the Great American Race? By the way, renowned sports commentator Ken Squier was inspired by an Australian race of all things when he coined the phrase “The Great American Race” at the 1979 Daytona 500. The first known telecast of a NASCAR race was the 1960 Daytona 500. Parts of which were presented as part of CBS Sports Spectacular, with announcer Bud Palmer. From 1962-1978, the Daytona 500 was shown on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. The 1979 Daytona 500 was the first 500 mile race to be broadcast entirely live on national television in the United States. Bringing things full circle, that race was won by Richard Petty, son of inaugural winner 20 years earlier, Lee Petty.