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PostPosted: Sun Feb 17, 2008 12:17 pm
 


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) Bigger, better and a whole lot faster.

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That's what Bill France Sr. wanted for NASCAR and his new track - a massive 2.5-mile, high-banked oval that dwarfed the other circuits yet underwhelmed drivers.

"Growing up on a half-mile speedway, it was so off that I don't think anybody could grasp that you could put on a good race here," said Junior Johnson, one of NASCAR's greatest drivers.

Instead, what many feared would be a big Daytona dud became "The Great American Race" and the site of the sport's greatest lore.

Sunday marks the 50th edition of the Daytona 500, where heartache, occasional four-wide racing and the almost inevitable dramatic finish have transfixed racing fans.

"If you look at it, what makes Daytona Daytona is Junior Johnson, Fireball Roberts, Bill France Sr., Dale Earnhardt Sr., Richard Petty," said Kyle Petty, whose grandfather, Lee, won the inaugural 1959 Daytona 500. "It's the guys who have won here, it's the history that's here."

The first 500 set the tone, with Lee Petty, Johnny Beauchamp and Joe Weatherly finishing in a three-wide dead heat. Beauchamp was declared the winner and got the trophy in Victory Lane, but Petty later was declared the winner after NASCAR officials spent three days studying still photos and newsreel footage of the finish.

Over the years, drama was ever present.

In 1960, former moonshine runner Johnson figured out he could use the air flow from the car in front to zoom past. He used that knowledge to get his only 500 victory, and the slingshot move became a staple of superspeedway racing.

In 1976, Richard Petty and David Pearson - then the sport's two biggest stars - crashed coming off the final turn while battling for the win. Pearson slid through the infield grass, kept his engine running somehow and slowly drove his crumpled car across the line for his only 500 victory.

Perhaps the most famous Daytona 500 was in 1979, when the entire race was televised live for the first time - on a day when a massive snowstorm in the Northeast kept millions stuck at home.

Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison, dueling for the lead on the final lap, crashed. They wound up jawing at each other outside their battered cars as Richard Petty, Lee's son and Kyle's dad, came from half a lap back to win one of his record seven Daytona 500s.

Just as things began to cool off, fourth-place finisher Bobby Allison drove up to defend his brother, and, suddenly, a helmet-swinging, punching, kicking melee broke out.

That race is generally credited with being the catalyst for NASCAR's transformation from a Southeast sport dominated by Carolinas drivers to a national behemoth with an estimated 75 million fans, coast-to-coast tracks, drivers from around the world and TV ratings trailing only the NFL.

And to think many wondered if France Sr. had lost his mind when he built Daytona International Speedway in 1958.

"They made fun of this place when they were building it," said Kyle Petty, who will race Sunday in his 27th 500. "My grandfather and those guys, they were like, 'That'll never work.'"

Johnson came here several times to watch the bulldozers shape the track, and all he could do was shake his head.

"It looked like it was going to take 10 minutes to run a lap," Johnson said. "But the first time I ran on it I knew it was something special."

Not all the events at Daytona have been positive, of course.

The lowest moment came in 2001 when Dale Earnhardt lost his life in a last-lap crash.

That came just three years after his emotional and popular 500 victory. The Intimidator won 34 races at Daytona, but that 1998 victory was his only triumph in the 500-mile race. It came in his 20th try after so many close calls that his pursuit for a victory here became NASCAR lore.

"Every person on pit road, rival crews, race officials, everybody, lined up to congratulate Dale," said Darrell Waltrip, a three-time series champion whose only Daytona 500 victory came in 1989 after 17 years of trying. "It was pretty emotional. There were a lot of tears."

Winning the Daytona 500 is a huge accomplishment for any driver, but, for some, it's the focal point of a career.

Michael Waltrip, who has only four career victories, got two of them in the 500.

"It's the race that has defined my career," he said. "Winning this race meant everything to me."

And it means everything to NASCAR.

"Indy's always going to always be Indy, but it's never going to be Daytona," Petty said. "This is always going to be our biggest race because this is where all our history is.


I realise the Dayton 500 is NASCAR's biggest race of the season, but after the loss of Dale Earnhardt aka THE INTIMIDATOR in 2001 the whole Nascar scene just isn't the same.

[align=center]RIP[/align]


[align=center]Image[/align]


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 17, 2008 12:46 pm
 


No doubt the loss of the intimidator was the end of an era, but with Gibbs going with Toyota, Dale Jr going to Hendricks and the performance of those two teams so far, I think todays race will be great. Also looking forward to see if Tony and Kurt Bush get into it, especially now that Kyle Bush is Tonys teammate. To bad Jacques and Patrick didn't make it.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 17, 2008 1:01 pm
 


A Toyota in the DAYTON 500 8O 8O goddamnitboy that jist ain't right! Y'all know what I'm talkin 'bout here. Y'all know how many good ol' boys are gonna be spinnin' in their graves!!! Gonna spur up a whole shitload of tornados, mark ma words boy!!


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 17, 2008 1:22 pm
 


WDHIII wrote:
Hyack wrote:
A Toyota in the DAYTON 500 8O 8O



Theyre runnin it in Ohio now? 8O 8O 8O [huh]
























:wink:


No shit Sherlock....OHIO.... 8O 8O ....next thing ya know they'll be putting an NHL team in Florida... ROTFL ROTFL ROTFL ROTFL ROTFL ROTFL


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 17, 2008 1:29 pm
 


WDHIII wrote:
:lol: :lol: :lol:


Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh if word gets out Edmonton will want one too :wink:


Don't forget Toronto....Hear that Mr C..... :roll: :roll:


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 17, 2008 5:39 pm
 


Turned out to be a hell of a race.

I don't recall Ryan Newman being on anyone's list of folks to watch. To have your team mate come back from the dead last starting position to push you across the finish line first ain't a bad way to end the day.

There are a bunch of drivers I like to watch, but damn it would be fun to see Smoke win a Daytona 500! If there is an heir apparent to number 3 I felt it was Smoke.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 17, 2008 8:42 pm
 


[align=center]WooHoo 9th![/align]

[align=center]Image[/align]


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 17, 2008 8:49 pm
 


Red? You ought to be wearing green now ;)


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 17, 2008 8:53 pm
 


Yeah well did you know that RACECAR spelled backwards is RACECAR. ;)

... and with shoes like that i am sure he'd forgive me


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 17, 2008 9:05 pm
 


Not very often that anyone just blows apart the winner interview. Was a classic for sure.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 17, 2008 9:09 pm
 


bear hugs are always welcome especially when they are unexpected


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