The 50th Anniversary Daytona 500

                                           February 2008                Dale Wilkerson


Perhaps the best part of the pre-race show for Sunday’s 50th Daytona 500 was seeing some of the old racecars that had found Daytona’s victory lane. Seeing those cars on the high banks made me think wouldn’t be fun to watch a race with past winners of the Daytona 500.

            So, to form the line up for this event, I listed all Daytona 500 winners by their average speed for the 500-mile distance. For the driver’s with multiply wins, Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Sterling Marlin and Michael Waltrip, by taking their fastest win to use for their speed.

            I thought about using qualifying speeds but with the restrictor plates used on all Daytona 500 winners since Bobby Allison’s win in 1988, I thought the average speed for 500 miles would make for good way to sort this line-up.

            This ultimate 50-years of the Daytona 500 Winner’s Race would be made up of 32 drivers, in eight different makes of cars. Some of the driver-car combinations may surprise you but remember, I took the race these guys won that had the fastest average speed. The speeds range from 32nd 124.740mph to first at 177.602mph.

            Here goes the line-up, from the rear to the front just like MRN and the TV guys did for Sunday’s race.

            Starting 32nd, the 1960 winner, in a Chevrolet is Junior Johnson, and alongside him #42 from Randleman, NC, the 31st starter and 1959 winner, Lee Petty. In 30th spot driving a 1965 Ford Galaxie 500, Fred Lorenzen. In 29th, the 2006 champion, Jimmie Johnson, in the first of four Rick Hendrick Chevrolets.

            The 14th row is made up of the 2002 winner, in a Dodge Intrepid, Ward Burton, and beside him in a Ford Fairlane, the 1967 winner, Mario Andretti. Row 13 has two Chevrolets with Geoff Bodine, the 1986 winner in a Monte Carlo-SS and in a 1991 Lumina, Ernie Irvan.

            Starting 24th, in the Tide Chevrolet, the 1989 winner, Darrell Waltrip. In the 23rd spot, the 2007 winner in the Shell Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick. In 22nd, driving a Plymouth Superbird, the 1970 winner Pete Hamilton. In 21st starting position, the 1961 winner, in a Pontiac, Marvin Panch.

            Row 10 has the first of three Woods Brother’s cars in the field. The 1963 winner starts 20th, in a Ford, Tiny Lund. On the inside of row 10, in the Purolator Mercury, the 1976 winner, from Spartanburg, SC, The Silver Fox, David Pearson.

            In 18th spot driving a Pontiac, the 1962 winner, Glenn ‘Fireball’ Roberts. The 2008 winner lines up 17th, in a Dodge Charger, Ryan Newman.

            Benny Parsons, the 1975 winner, lines up in 16th in a Chevrolet alongside Dale Jarrett in the 2000 Yates Racing Ford Taurus. In 14th, driving his back car, a Pontiac that he won with in1983, a four time winner of the 500, Cale Yarborough. On the inside of the 7th row, the 2004 winner, driving the #8 DEI-Chevrolet, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. In 12th spot on the grid, driving a 1994 Chevrolet Lumina, Sterling Marlin. In 11th spot, in a 1969 Ford Torino, Leroy Yarbrough.

            And now for the top ten: driving the 1978 Bud Moore Ford Thunderbird, from Hueytown Alabama, three time winner Bobby Allison. In 9th starting position, in the third Woods brother’s car, the 1972 winner A.J. Foyt.

            In 8th place, in his 1999 Chevrolet, Jeff Gordon. In 7th spot, a two time winner of the 500, also in a DEI-Chevrolet, Michael Waltrip. The six spot belongs to the Chevrolet Lumina of 1990 winner, Derrike Cope, with the Havoline Ford Thunderbird of 1992 winner Davey Allison along side.

            Starting 4th, the 7-time winner of the Daytona 500, in his 1981 Buick Regal, at a speed of 169.651, Richard Petty. Starting third, at a speed of 172.712, driving the #3 GM-Goodwrench Chevrolet Monte Carlo, the 1998 winner Dale Earnhardt.

            And on the front row, outside with a speed of 176.263, two-time winner and driver of the #9 1987 Ford Thunderbird, Bill Elliott. And on the pole, with a speed of 177.602, the 1980 winner, in an Oldsmobile 442, Buddy Baker.

            The folks at ESPN have had a show where they have played out fantasy Super Bowls. I wonder if they could load race drivers into a computer program, and run a make-believe race?

            If they did and the race stays green, Elliott, Baker and Cale Yarborough might run away from the field, but they would have to pit a lot more than the restrictor plated cars. The plate cars would probably have the ‘Big One’ and eliminate all of them except Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt, Sr. Ole DW won with gas mileage in 1989 so, he would probably try that again. Dale Sr. would make it through the wreck, to later cut a tire after hitting a sea gull, after stopping for gas with three laps to go. It seemed like Dale Senior lost this race every possible way. Then A.J. and Mario would take each other out over an Indy car thing.

            The last lap would have Richard Petty and David Pearson leading a snarling pack down the backstretch. Cale and Bobby would get together in turn three, Buddy runs out of gas. Lee Petty, Fireball Roberts, and Jr. Johnson battle for 4th spot, with Hamilton and Lorenzen trying to run them down. The battle for the win would be between Richard Petty, David Pearson, and Bill Elliott.

David Pearson wins this race after The King and Awesome Bill tangle coming off turn four, Pearson gets clipped but he powers out of the slid to take the checkered flag. 

Well that’s how I picture it. You might imagine it differently, but oh-boy, it would be fun to watch.