The great American race has a long and rich history, and its roots run deep. So it should come as no surprise that a good old American car won the first Daytona 500.
The race took place on the 22nd. February 1959. And the cars involved don’t look much like the next generation of NASCAR cars. But like many modern NASCAR races, the inaugural Daytona 500 had a flair for the dramatic.
Which driver won the first Daytona 500?
Lee Petty, driver of the 42 Oldsmobile, race to the finish against Johnny Beauchamp, driver of the 73 Holman Moody Ford, in the first 1959 Daytona 500. They passed Joe Weatherly, the driver of the No. 48, on the final stretch. | Photo: ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images
Lee Petty won a historic event, but he wasn’t the driver on the podium at the end of the day. If that name sounds familiar, it should. He is the father of legendary race car driver Richard Petty, who also competed in the first Daytona 500, but finished 57th after engine problems.
The race ended with a photo finish between Johnny Beauchamp and Petty. Beauchamp’s #73 Ford Thunderbird takes the bottom row, while Petty holds the middle. Remarkably, the #48 car of Joe Weatherly was a lap behind and had a high line on the drivers battling for first place.
According to the story, NASCAR CEO Bill France Sr. Beauchamp initially as the winner. This result did not stand, however, as Petty protested the outcome.
NASCAR looked at photos and newsreel footage of the finish line and came to a new conclusion three days after the race. The organization protested the result, claiming that Petty cut Beauchamp off to take the checkered flag.
Which car was Lee Petty driving at the start of the Daytona 500?
42 Oldsmobile driver Lee Petty poses in front of his car before the first Daytona 500 in 1959 | Photo ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images
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He may not have taken all the credit on race day, but Petty’s Oldsmobile Super 88 hardtop went down in history as the first winner of the Daytona 500.
This Oldsmobile Super 88 wore Petty’s famous number 42, but didn’t have a big sponsor on the hood. Instead, there was a red triangle pattern on the car’s white paint. The side walls are now covered with small company logos.
The car also proudly displayed 315 horsepower. On each side of the hood is a reference to the 315 hp V8 that lay beneath it.
NASCAR’s stock cars are remarkably similar to the 1959 production models. In this sport, there was a homologation rule that stipulated that a model had to be available to the public and meet a certain sales threshold to be eligible for competition.
Retailing 1959. Oldsmobile Super 88 models were available in different body styles. These include sedans, coupes, station wagons and convertibles. Plus, a powerful Rocket V8 is standard on every Super 88.
There is not much left of the currentcars.
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Since 1959 a lot has changed in the world of motorsports. For example, Lee Petty in an Oldsmobile Super 88 wouldn’t have a chance at the Daytona 500 in 2021.
As you might expect, you can’t use a modern NASCAR car as a daily driver. These cars still use a V8 engine, but the powertrains are much more powerful than in the past.
NASCAR requires two different power ratings for its Cup Series cars, depending on the track. So the cars will use the 550-hp V8 for the Daytona 500 in 2021. However, race teams will have to replace it with a 750-hp V8 next week at the Daytona street circuit.
But even though the cars no longer look the same as they did during the 1959 Daytona 500, the sport still has the same dramatic spirit. Many NASCAR fans are keeping their fingers crossed for another exciting photo finish – a la Petty and Beauchamp.
frequently asked questions
Has a rookie ever won the Daytona 500?
wiki ‘ Trevor_Bayne
What really killed Earnhardt?
When was the first Nascar Daytona 500 race held?
It took place on February 22, 1959 in front of 41,921 spectators. This is the first race held at the Daytona International Speedway, which is 2.5 miles long.
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