With five weekends to go untill Daytona, I've decided to put together what I think are the five greatest Daytona 500s of all time. This strictly goes on my own opinion, coming from a life long race fan watching NASCAR since I can remember, which is the final race of 1992, untill now!
My fifth favorite Daytona 500 is the 2007 Daytona 500.
As a race fan, and a committed NASCAR junkie, I think this definitly deserved to make the list over the 1976 race, which is the honorable mention in this case.
Lets go back to 2007. It was the final 500 with the old car, and man, it was a wild one.
It was the end of my senior year in high school. As I was doing everything to get my racing fix in school, because it was senior year, and we all stopped caring.
I was writing down rookie of the years, and past race winners, and finally the 500 came.
I just met a new friend my senior year. A kid who loved the New York Yankees as much as I did, I finally had a guy who was as crazy as me.
But it was February, and he saw me getting pumped up for this thing he never gave a chance, called the Daytona 500.
I kept telling him, "just give it a shot, really, I promise, you'll love it!"
He told me, "if you're getting jazzed up about this there must be something good about it, I'll give it a shot, just because of you."
I had work that day. I was really upset about it.
However, I was working in a restaurant, and they had a tv in the next room over, so I was good.
I had went through almost the whole day, going in and out trying to keep and eye on my race, but as it got towards the end, I was to the point of, "they could fire me, I don't give a rat's behind, I'm watching the race!"
When I did, Mark Martin was in the lead.
It was very strange seeing Mark Martin in the No. 01 car, a team which wasn't very good the year before, and needless to say, I didn't give a 48-year-old driver, who started 26th a legitimate shot to win the biggest race of the year, which he never won in his prime.
I was shocked, but thrilled Mark was in the lead.
I remember calling my brother, who called in sick, to talk about the race, I remember saying to Clayton, "...Mark Martin, wow, wouldn't that be somethin?'"
The "big one" hadn't happened yet, so I was worried about who was going to get in it.
I'm not one to get caught up in the moment, so I wasn't going to count my chickens before they hatched. I've seen this many times before, especially in this race, so I was pulling for, but not betting on Mark Martin.
Before the final re-start, I remember saying to a total stranger next to me, "Be prepared, 'cause if that ol' man in the 01 car wins this race, I'm gonna go nuts!"
Mark was still in the lead, and with the green-white-checkered taking place, it was sure going to be one hell of a finish, and it sure was much more than that!
I remember thinking that the hot-footed youngster riding in second most of the race, Kyle Busch, was going to do something crazy in that fast Hendrick Motorsports car, and Mark was in deep trouble.
Going into three, Jeff Gordon hopped out of line with teammate Casey Mears, Mears didn't have the speed and got back in line, leaving Gordon out to dry.
Then Kevin Harvick jumped out of line to form a high line.
The front four, was in the low lane, single file, and then they were side-by-side with Harvick and Kasey Kahne nose to nose, and Harvick linked up with Matt Kenseth.
The white flag was in the air, and the top lane seemed like it was going nowhere. Kyle was moving back and forth behind Mark, trying to find the fastest line, and then stayed low behind Mark.
In the middle of the superstretch, on the white flag lap, things got very interesting. David Gilliland, who was running fourth, jumped out of line and tried to get in front of Harvick.
Instead, Harvick kept his foot in it, and flew by Gilliland on the outside. They were three wide for third.
Kyle got a run, and jumped above Mark, who just made a block, almost getting Kyle into Harvick, and Kyle lost the race right there.
Busch got sideways in the middle of three, and like a wide receiver bobbling a football, never really gathered control of the car afterwards.
Mark got loose in the middle of the corner, and Harvick had a small lead into four.
Kyle Busch finally gathered control, then he hit the yellow stripe on the bottom of the track, spinning him sideways, causing the "big one" to happen.
As mayhem broke behind them, Mark had a half of a car lead.
I had just started the old Mike Joy pun, "Twenty-one years of trying, twenty-one years of frustration, the Daytona 500 finally belongs to Batesville, Arkansas'...KEVIN HARVICK?? ARE YOU KIDDING ME??"
It all happened so fast I didn't know what to think.
For a moment I didn't like Kevin Harvick, and was like, "why did he pass Mark, why didn't he let the poor guy finally win?"
But I knew, Mark and any racer would rather loose like that a million times than to be given one once!
It was an outstanding finish, Clint Bowyer's car finished on its roof to top it all off, and they were still wrecking for what felt like 5 minutes.
I remember getting a call on my cellphone shortly afterwards.
"Dude, that was awesome! Dude! I love this stuff!" It was my buddy, and he was hooked!
I was more upset about Mark Martin losing the race, and said back, "no it wasn't...!"
It was though. Looking back, I'm glad things happened the way they did, because it made it one of the most memorable races of all time.
Youtube the finish, it still puts you on the edge of your seat.
That's what makes this my No. 5 Daytona 500 of all time.