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.