Happy New Year! We’re gearing up for another great NASCAR season with our countdown to the 52nd running of the Daytona 500! “The Great American Race” is just 40 days away.
As a kickoff to our countdown, here’s a look back at the first Daytona 500:
The first running of “The Great American Race” took place on February 22, 1959 at the Daytona International Speedway. Fifty-nine cars took the field for the start of the 200-lap race and 41,000 fans were on hand to witness the historic racing event. The finish of the race was too close to call—Lee Petty and Johnny Beauchamp were lapping Joe Weatherly at the finish line. All three cars crossed the line at the same time and Weatherly’s car blocked the NASCAR photo finish camera. Initially, Johnny Beauchamp was declared the winner, but after three days of reviewing film and photos of the finish, Lee Petty was declared the winner by a few feet.