Family Ties Run Strong In Daytona 500 History
As NASCAR prepares for 50th Daytona 500
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – When looking at the history of the Daytona 500, there's one predominant theme that echoes throughout – Families.
Beginning with the inaugural Daytona 500 in 1959, successes and disappointments in NASCAR's biggest, richest and most prestigious race have been handed down through generations.
Here's a look at some of the great families that have competed and won in the Daytona 500:
Pettys – Father Lee, Son Richard, Grandson Kyle
There's no family that holds more Daytona 500 history than the Petty family.
The family patriarch Lee Petty won the inaugural Daytona 500 back in 1959 in a photo finish that took 61 hours to determine the winner.
Lee Petty's son Richard Petty won a record seven Daytona 500 but is probably more remembered for a race he didn't win – the 1976 Daytona 500.
In a last lap battle, David Pearson and Petty crashed exiting Turn 4. When both cars came to rest in the tri-oval grass, they still had not crossed the start/finish line. Petty's radiator was pushed back into the fan on the front of the engine and the car wouldn't restart. But Pearson dumped the clutch and kept the car in neutral keeping it from stalling. Pearson straightened out his damaged machine and slowly crossed the start/finish line to capture the only Daytona 500 victory of his career. The finish has become the iconic image of the Petty-Pearson rivalry.
"More people know about that race more than the seven I won," Petty said.
The Pettys also experienced Daytona 500 success along pit road. Richard Petty's brother Maurice won the Daytona 500 as a crew chief for Pete Hamilton in 1970 and Lee Petty served as Richard's crew chief in his first two Daytona 500 victories.
In addition, Lee Petty's nephew Dale Inman was the crew chief Richard Petty's other five Daytona 500 wins.
The third generation of the Petty racing family is Kyle Pety, who will make his 27th Daytona 500 start in the 50th running of the Daytona 500.
Petty has never won the Daytona 500 but did start on the Daytona 500 pole in 1993.
"There's so much history in this race," Kyle Petty said. "There's so much history of our sport in this race. I think that's what I would like all new fans to understand. The Daytona 500 didn't start last year. There's a lot of history in this sport and there's a lot of history at this place. This is our hallowed ground. This is our sacred ground. This is our sacred race."
The Jarretts – Father Ned, son Dale
Ned Jarrett never had the chance to celebrate a Daytona 500 victory, but he was able to celebrate three of his son's Daytona 500 triumphs.
Ned Jarrett had his chances to win the Daytona 500 and was just a few laps short on gas from winning the 1963 Daytona 500 but his son Dale has three Daytona 500 wins to his credit with victories in 1993, 1996 and 2000.
When Dale Jarrett won his first Daytona 500 driving for Joe Gibbs Racing in 1993, Ned Jarrett was calling the race for CBS Sports high above in the tower and got the opportunity to bring his son home to the checkered flag on the final lap and talk to him on the air in Gatorade Victory Lane.
Dale Jarrett says his first Daytona 500 win was one for the whole family.
"I was here in 1963 thinking my dad was going to win the Daytona 500 and when he ran out of gas, it was heartbreaking," Dale Jarrett said. "Now, I understand how much that meant to him at that time. I felt like that was maybe a little redemption for the family because my dad helped me a lot and I know he got a lot from that victory."
Dale Jarrett says the theme of families helps distinct the Daytona 500 from other major sporting events in America.
"I don't think you can go to any other sport and see that in the major (events) – whether it's the World Series, the Super Bowls, the NBA championships – you can't attach families and their names to winning as much as you can in the Daytona 500," Jarrett said.
Waltrips – Brothers Darrell and Michael
Darrell and Michael Waltrip are the only brothers to have won the Daytona 500.
Darrell Waltrip captured his first and only Daytona 500 win in 1989 when the numbers finally aligned for him – his car number was 17, his daughter Jessica was 17 months old and it was his 17th attempt at winning the Daytona 500.
Waltrip and his crew chief Jeff Hammond played fuel strategy and squeezed out enough gas for a seven-second victory over Ken Schrader. Waltrip pulled into Victory Lane, climbed out of his Chevrolet and screamed, "I've won the Daytona 500, I've won the Daytona 500. Wait, wait, this is the Daytona 500. Don't tell me it isn't."
Michael Waltrip, driving the No. 15 Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt Inc., won the first of his two Daytona 500s in 2001. It was also his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win in his 463rd career start.
"Families are a big part of NASCAR racing in general," Waltrip said. "We grow up watching our brothers and dads race. We think it looks like a lot of fun and we've got to do that too.
"(It's special) to be able to share the honor of being a Daytona 500 champion with my brother Darrell, who I grew up admiring and just following all over the place. He's the reason I'm a race car driver. I don't know that I would have had that idea if it weren't for him."
Earnhardts – Father Dale, son Dale Jr.
Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are one of three father-son combinations to win the Daytona 500 with the others being the Allisons and Pettys.
Earnhardt captured his lone Daytona 500 victory in 1998 on his 20th career start. With the gift of a lucky penny from a young fan glued to his dashboard, Earnhardt led 107 laps, including the final 61, on his way to winning one of his most elusive trophies– the Harley J. Earl.
Earnhardt's Victory Lane celebration was delayed by the scores of crew members that lined pit road to congratulate the new Daytona 500 champion.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. wouldn't need as many starts to win the Daytona 500 as his father. In only his fifth career start in the Daytona 500, he captured the 2004 edition of the race with President George W. Bush in attendance.
But unlike other siblings who remember as a kid watching their fathers race in the Daytona 500 in person, Earnhardt Jr. never witnessed a Daytona 500 in person until he made his first start in 2000.
"I watched it on TV at home," Earnhardt Jr. said. "We were in school. Dad and Teresa came down here, they had to be down here for a week and families didn't come down quite as often.
"The first one that I saw was the first one I ran in as a rookie. It was quite an experience. As tough as it was to wait that long to see one in person, it was probably better because it just meant so much to be in the field."
Bobby Allison won three Daytona 500s, including a historic 1-2 father-son finish with his son Davey in the 1988 Daytona 500.
Allison completed an incredible run of success during Speedweeks that year when he captured a Gatorade Duel, a Nationwide Series race and then delivered a third Daytona 500 victory on Valentine's Day by edging his son Davey.
His wife Judy admitted she was pulling for her husband because "he's the one that paid the bills." Allison also had a fourth victory during Speedweeks – the fishing tournament in Lake Lloyd.
Sadly, Allison can't remember the 1988 finish because he suffered a career-ending head injury in a crash later that year at Pocono Raceway.
"What would have to be the favorite 500 moment would be at 1988 at the age of 50, I won my third Super Bowl of my career with the best young man in racing second to me," Allison said at the historic July reunion of Daytona 500 champions at DIS. "But I still don't remember 1988. It's kind of tough in a way.
"Sitting here right now, it hurts and annoys me that I have no memory of that. I sat down with a tape a few months ago and watched the entire race flag to flag to see if it would do anything for me. It looks like some movie that somebody made somewhere that kind of looked like something I had done one day."
While Davey came up short in 1988, he would go on to win the Daytona 500 in 1992 with Robert Yates Racing.
Meanwhile, Bobby's brother Donnie never won the Daytona 500 but was involved in one of the most memorable finishes in the history of NASCAR.
In the first live televised broadcast of the Daytona 500 in 1979, Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison were battling side-by-side for victory on the final lap of the Daytona 500. But neither Yarbrough nor Allison ever made it to the checkered flag.
The two drivers were beating and banging on each other all the way down the Superstretch and crashed entering Turn 3. While Richard Petty benefited from the crash with his sixth Daytona 500 win, one of the landmark moments in the history of NASCAR took place as Yarborough and Allison began a heated debate that turned into a fist fight with brother Bobby jumping into the fray.
"If I had to do it over, and I know what I know now, I would have done something different," said Allison, whose career-best finish in the Daytona 500 was third back in 1969. "But to be perfectly honest, it caught me by surprise. It caught everybody by surprise because how many times in the 50 years they run the Daytona 500 have you seen the leader and the second-place car crash coming off of Turn 2. Turn 4 yes. I expected something to happen down there.
"It does stick in my craw," Allison continued. "It's a hard pill to swallow. Cale and I are acquaintances. We talk a lot. He did what he thought he had to do and I did what I thought I had to."
Coo Coo Marlin never won a Daytona 500 but did win a Gatorade Duel back in 1973 while his son Sterling Marlin is one of only three drivers to win back-to-back Daytona 500s in 1994 and 1995 … In addition to Lee and Maurice Petty, Todd and Buddy Parrott are the only other father-son crew chief combination to win the Daytona 500 … The Wood Brothers – Glen and Leonard Wood – have four Daytona 500 wins as owners with drivers Tiny Lund, David Pearson, A.J. Foyt and Cale Yarborough … Bill Elliott's brother Ernie Elliott served as the crew chief for his two Daytona 500 wins in 1985 and 1987 and his Daytona 500 record setting qualifying lap of 210.364 mph.
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