The Daytona 500. The Pothole 500. The 500 That Will Never End. Whatever you want to call it or say about it, in the end, it turned out to be one helluva show. Thanks to some forward thinking men or women in NASCAR, the race fans got to see not one attempt at a green-white-checker finish, two. Just before Speedweeks started, NASCAR made a "rule change" stating that now as long as the leader had not taken the white flag, that the boys would get up to three attempts to finish a race under green. Who knew that it would be put to the test right out of the box. What the race fans got was a new winner in the biggest race of the season for the ninth straight year, which by the way, was a popular win amongst the drivers, the resurgence of a fan favorite, for at least one race, and one helluva finish. The finish got me thinking about what were the top finishes in the fifty-two runnings of the "Great American Race". So here we go with my top 10. Feel free argue, disagree, agree, and generally discuss at will. Oh yeah, this year's finish did not make the cut.
10. The Dale and Dale Show, 1993
Dale Jarrett holds off Dale Sr.. The race was made most famous by Dale's father Ned calling the race and "coaching" him to the finish. This was also, Joe Gibbs Racing first win in the Winston Cup Series and the first of three Daytona 500 wins for Jarrett.
9. Father Knows Best, 1988
Bobby Allison leads his son, the late Davey Allison to line for what had to be the best father-son celebration in victory lane. The other memorable moment was the spectacular wreck that had Richard Petty flipping wildly down the frontstretch and into the catch fence.
8.Ole BP Plays A Little Possum, 1975
David Pearson appears to have the field covered on his way to his first 500 win. Benny Parsons running a distant second hooks with Richard Petty, who is a lap down, and runs down the Silver Fox. Then with two laps left Pearson wrecks and opens the door for Parsons.
7.A Snowstorm and a Fight, Just What the Doctor Ordered, 1979
With much of the east coast buried in snow, America got acquainted to NASCAR. What they saw was great under card of a race and a main event fight down on the infield people still talk about today. Many people credit this race with putting NASCAR on the map. It was the first race broadcast in its entirety. People though, remember the fight between Donnie Allison, Cale Yarborough, and later joining in to the aid of his brother, Bobby Allison, more so than they remember Richard Petty winning the race.
6.Swervin' Ernie Irvan Avoids the Mayhem, 1991
With some crazy pit road rules that would have made the Truck series rules of last year seem tame, Ernie Irvan, dodged wreck after wreck, the last of which came with two laps remaining when Dale Sr. and Davey Allison got together on the backstretch, and claimed his only 500 victory.
5.The Ultimate Cinderella Story, Derrick Cope Takes Home the Prize, 1990
Dale Sr. had the field covered all day. When a late race caution came out, all the leaders pitted except Derrick Cope. With the great track position, Cope was able to hang with Sr. even though he had older tires. On the last lap, Earnhardt cut a tire and allowed Cope to claim the '90 500.
4.The Day Racing Stood Still, Michael Waltrip, 2001
I put this race fourth because of a few reasons. It had a finish, some would say a spectacular finish, some would say a sad finish. Looking back now, I see it both ways. This was also my first Daytona 500 attended live. I remember it like it was yesterday. The track, the smells, the noise( the cars sounded like a freight train coming by you), and yes the finish. The finish was set up when on the backstretch with 27 laps remaining a huge wreck took place that took out many contenders. With the laps running down, Michael Waltrip and his teammate Dale Jr. were running out front, followed closely by Dale Sr. On the final lap, Dale Sr, radioed to his drivers, MW and Jr. were both in the DEI camp, to stay high, I got'em covered down low. Goin' into turn three MW and Jr. drifted high with Sr. in tow. Sr. then ducked low goin' into four and the rest is history as they say. MW beat Jr. to the line by a car length, in a finish many soon will never forget.
3. Harvick and Martin Battle to the Strip, 2007
Mark Martin was running a part time schedule for DEI that year. On the last lap, Kevin Harvick, using the outside line and little help from Matt Kenseth, pull even with Martin at the end of the backstretch and then takes the lead going into turn three. Martin fights back on the inside and reclaims the lead coming out of turn four. Just as they are coming out of four "The Big One" happens. Harvick and Martin drag race to the line with Harvick winning by .02 seconds, the closest finish since the first Daytona 500.
2. Lee Petty wins the inaugural Daytona 500, 1959
Lee Petty and Johnny Beauchamp were the only cars left on the lead lap when the checkered flag flew. In a race that had no cautions and 59 cars entered, it all came down to three days of waiting and some newsreel footage. Both men thought they had won, but in the end, Big Bill France got some assistance from the print news with some photographs and with the tv media to finally declare Petty the winner.
1. Lettin' the Fur Fly!, 1976
Richard Petty and David Pearson, the two winningest drivers in stock car history waged an epic battle in 1976. Petty was leading on the final lap when Pearson slingshot past Petty on the backstretch. Petty tucked in behind Pearson and then tried to return the favor coming off of four. Instead he hooked Pearson and sent he and Pearson careening off the wall and spinning wildly into the infield grass. Mere yards from the finish line, Pearson was able to keep his engine running and coasted across the finish line to win his only Daytona 500. Petty finished second by virtue of he and Pearson being the only two on the lead lap at the white flag.
So there ya go, this is my top 10, I'm sure I have left one, two or more out, but damn, its 11:30 and my head hurts!