The greatest finishes in Daytona 500 history
Anticipation is building for the 64th running of the Daytona 500, which kicks off the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season this Sunday. We’ve seen some fantastic finishes over the lifetime of the Great American Race, and hopefully this year’s running will provide another one!
Sun, February 20 2022, 7:30 PM
Here are the five most memorable endings in the history of the Daytona 500.
5. 1979: Petty wins, Yarborough and Allison brawl
The 1979 Daytona 500 is often credited with significantly raising the national profile of NASCAR. Richard Petty – aka “The King” – took his staggering sixth Daytona 500 by just a car length over Darrell Waltrip, but that pair was over a half-lap behind Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough when the white flag came out.
Yarborough attempted to go by Allison on the final lap, but the pair crashed and spun into the infield grass. As the checkered flag came out declaring Petty the winner, Yarborough and Allison were engaged in a wild scrap.
4. 1976: Pearson wins despite last-lap wreck
Just three years before his sixth Daytona 500 score, Petty was involved in a fierce last-lap tussle with David Pearson.
The two legendary drivers traded the lead on Lap 200, but when Petty went for an inside pass on the final bend, he was unable to clear Pearson, and both drivers hit the wall. Pearson was able to avoid sliding into the infield grass, re-fired his engine, and coasted to the checkered flag.
Members of Petty’s team ran out from pit road to help push his car across the line for a second-place finish.
3. 1959: Petty prevails in blanket photo
The first running of the Daytona 500 proved to be one of the most memorable in the history of the Great American Race.
Lee Petty’s No. 42 Oldsmobile and Johnny Beauchamp’s No. 73 Ford crossed the line after the final lap in a virtual dead-heat, with both drivers believing that they won. Beauchamp was announced as the winner, but after three days of studying various photos and newsreel footage, NASCAR announced that it was actually Petty who crossed the start/finish line in front.
2. 2007: Harvick noses out Martin
Kevin Harvick beat out Mark Martin by two one-hundredths of a second to win the 2007 Daytona 500 in one of the closest finishes in NASCAR history.
Martin had the lead for most of the final lap, keeping a stubborn Kyle Busch in his rearview mirror. But Harvick had a big run off of Turn 4, and was able to draw alongside and edge out Martin at the line.
While their frantic finish was occurring, half of the field was wrecking behind them. Clint Bowyer’s No. 07 car crossed the start/finish line upside-down and on fire. Fortunately, everyone emerged unharmed.
1. 2016: Hamlin by inches over Truex
In the closest finish in Daytona 500 history, Denny Hamlin beat Martin Truex Jr. to the checkered flag by one one-hundredth of a second in 2016.
Matt Kenseth had the lead going into Turn 4 but lost control of his car trying to hold off a slew of challengers, barely saving himself from a wreck. Hamlin and Truex were his closest pursuers, overtook him, and raced to the line side-by-side.
Unlike the 1959 Daytona 500, there was no controversy about the finish, but merely heartbreak for Truex. He still does not have a win in the Cup Series’ signature event.