Risk vs. Reward: Daytona International Speedway

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Risk vs. Reward: Daytona International Speedway

As we all sit and watch the Daytona 500 on Sunday, please pray for the racers' families who have lost someone to Daytona.

Racing related deaths at Daytona International Speedway since the track opened in 1959:

 

1. Marshall Teague, NASCAR stock car practice, Feb. 11, 1959.

2. George Amick, USAC 100-mile race, April 4, 1959.

3. Dr. Bernie Taylor, powerboat race in infield lake, June 14, 1959.

4. Harold Haberling, NASCAR stock car practice, Feb. 21, 1964.

5. Billy Drew Wade, NASCAR stock car tire test, Jan. 5, 1965.

6. Don MacTavish, Sportsman 300 race, Feb. 21, 1969.

7. Wayne Harris Bartz, lightweight motorcycle race, March 12, 1969.

8. Talmadge "Tab" Prince, Twin 125-mile qualifying race, Feb. 19, 1970.

9. Joe "Rusty" Bradley, Daytona 200 race, March 14, 1971.

10. Davd Pearl, Paul Whiteman Trophy Race, July 30, 1971.

11. Friday Hassler, Twin 125-mile NASCAR qualifying race, Feb. 17, 1972.

12. Ricky Knotts, Twin 125-mile NASCAR qualifying race, Feb. 14, 1980.

13. Francis Affleck, ARCA stock car practice, Feb. 7, 1985.

14. Dr. Charles Ogle, stock car testing, injured Dec. 15, 1985, died Dec. 26, 1985.

15. Bruce Jacobi, Twin 125-mile NASCAR qualifying race, injured Feb. 1983, died Feb. 4, 1987.

16. Joe Young, Charlotte-Daytona Dash race, Feb. 13, 1987.

17. James Kolman, kart testing, Dec. 27, 1987.

18. Randy Glenn, motorcycle practice, Feb. 26, 1988.

19. Don Williams, Sportsman 300 race, injured Feb. 1979, died May 21, 1989.

20. Dale Robertson, kart race, Dec. 27, 1989.

21. Julius Johnson, ARCA 200 stock car race, injured Feb. 11, 1990, died Feb. 14, 1990.

22. Joe Booher, Florida 200 Dash race, Feb. 12, 1993.

23. James Adamo, motorcyle race, March 7, 1993.

24. Neil Bonnett, NASCAR stock car practice, Feb. 11, 1994.

25. Rodney Orr, NASCAR stock car practice, Feb. 14, 1994.

26. Michael Himes, IMSA Two-Hour endurance race, Jan. 31, 1997.

27. Dale Earnhardt, NASCAR Daytona 500, Feb. 18, 2001.

28. Roy H. Weaver III, Dash Series race, Feb. 8, 2003.

Is the Reward greater than the Risk?

For most of his racing career, Dale Earnhardt said the Daytona 500 didn't define a career. But that was a ruse to deflect 19 years of frustration.

It wasn't until his win in 1998 that Earnhardt admitted the obvious: The Daytona 500 doesn't just define a career. It creates legends.

That connection wasn't lost on his son. Dale Earnhardt Jr. watched his father die on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 from his rearview mirror. Three years later, Dale Jr. won his first 500.

Even now, he can't put the significance of the 500, good and bad, into words.

"You do anything in the world just to get in the Daytona 500," he said. "Once you're in the race, there's no feeling like it. It's an incredible feeling. There's no way to describe it. It's impossible to answer the question on what it's like to win the Daytona 500."

Former winners agree the 500 changes lives like no other race. They quickly learn a win is far more reaching that a record payday (today's winner will earn at least $1.4 million) or a big trophy. Winning at Daytona does define a driver's career. It makes him a legend.

"It's a special claim nobody can ever take from you," said 2002 winner Ward Burton. "As time passes, it gets bigger."

All 24 surviving former winners  will be at the Daytona International Speedway for the 51th edition of the Great American Race.

Five hundred miles later, somebody will join that elite group. Somebody will become a legend.

The race has had everything. The first in 1959 ended in a photo finish between Lee Petty and Johnny Beauchamp. It took NASCAR three days to finally pick a winner.

The 500 is Richard Petty and David Pearson crashing 500 yards short of the finish line in 1976. It's Donnie Allison, Bobby Allison, and Cale Yarborough fighting in Turn 3 after the 1979 race. It's Bobby Allison beating his son, Davey, by a car length in 1988.

It's Tiny Lund winning in 1963 without changing tires. It's Earnhardt Sr.'s flat tire in Turn 3 and Derrike Cope's stunning win in 1990. It's Darrell Waltrip's victory dance in 1989. And it's Kevin Harvick's photo finish win over Mark Martin a year ago.

"Daytona doesn't compare with anything," said 1986 winner Geoff Bodine. "For NASCAR, it's our biggest race. As winners, we feel that way. That's all that matters."

Previous Winners include -

1959 Lee Petty 135.520 Cotton Owens 143.198
1960 Junior Johnson 124.740 Fireball Roberts 151.556
1961 Marvin Panch 149.601 Fireball Roberts 155.709
1962 Fireball Roberts 152.529 Fireball Roberts 156.995
1963 Tiny Lund 151.566 Johnny Rutherford 165.183
1964 Richard Petty 154.345 Paul Goldsmith 174.910
1965 Fred Lorenzen 141.539 Darel Dieringer 171.151
Shortened to 332+ miles by rain
1966 Richard Petty 160.627 Richard Petty 175.165
Shortened to 495 miles by rain
1967 Mario Andretti 149.926 Curtis Turner 180.831
1968 Cale Yarborough 143.251 Cale Yarborough 189.222
1969 Lee Roy Yarbrough 157.950 David Pearson 190.029
1970 Pete Hamilton 149.601 Cale Yarborough 194.015
1971 Richard Petty 144.462 A.J. Foyt 182.744
1972 A.J. Foyt 161.550 Bobby Isaac 186.632
1973 Richard Petty 157.205 Buddy Baker 185.662
1974 Richard Petty 140.894 David Pearson 185.017
Shortened to 450 miles because of energy crisis
1975 Benny Parsons 153.649 Donnie Allison 185.827
1976 David Pearson 152.181 A.J. Foyt 185.943
1977 Cale Yarborough 153.218 Donnie Allison 188.048
1978 Bobby Allison 159.730 Cale Yarborough 187.536
1979 Richard Petty 143.977 Buddy Baker 196.049
1980 Buddy Baker 177.602 A.J. Foyt 195.020
1981 Richard Petty 169.651 Bobby Allison 194.624
1982 Bobby Allison 153.991 Benny Parsons 196.317
1983 Cale Yarborough 155.979 Ricky Rudd 198.864
1984 Cale Yarborough 150.994 Cale Yarborough 201.848
1985 Bill Elliott 172.265 Bill Elliott 205.114
1986 Geoff Bodine 148.124 Bill Elliott 205.039
1987 Bill Elliott 176.263 Bill Elliott 210.364†
1988 Bobby Allison 137.531 Ken Schrader 193.823
1989 Darrell Waltrip 148.466 Ken Schrader 196.996
1990 Derrike Cope 165.761 Ken Schrader 196.515
1991 Ernie Irvan 148.148 Davey Allison 195.955
1992 Davey Allison 160.256 Sterling Marlin 192.213
1993 Dale Jarrett 154.972 Kyle Petty 189.426
1994 Sterling Marlin 156.931 Loy Allen Jr. 190.158
1995 Sterling Marlin 141.710 Dale Jarrett 193.498
1996 Dale Jarrett 154.308 Dale Earnhardt 189.510
1997 Jeff Gordon 148.295 Mike Skinner 189.813
1998 Dale Earnhardt 172.712 Bobby Labonte 192.415
1999 Jeff Gordon 161.551 Jeff Gordon 195.067
2000 Dale Jarrett 155.669 Dale Jarrett 182.334
2001 Michael Waltrip 161.794 Bill Elliott 183.565
2002 Ward Burton 142.971 Jimmie Johnson 185.831
2003 Michael Waltrip 133.870 Jeff Green 186.606
Shortened to 409 miles because of rain
2004 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 156.345 Greg Biffle 188.387
2005 Jeff Gordon 135.173 Dale Jarrett 188.312
2006 Jimmie Johnson 142.667 Jeff Burton 189.151
 

Remember the ones we lost at Daytona and pray for a safe race.

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