Petty Daytona Insights
by Tom Jensen February 13, 2021
Seven Richard Petty Daytona 500 victories, seven fun facts, including a few you didn’t know existed.
Over more than six decades, plenty of drivers have put up big numbers in the Daytona 500.
Bobby Allison (2011), Dale Jarrett (2014), Jeff Gordon (2019) and Denny Hamlin all won the Great American Race three times. Cale Yarborough (2012) won it four times.
But when it comes to the Daytona 500, there can be only one king. Or more correctly, only one “The King,” a/k/a Richard Petty (2010). With seven victories in the 500, Petty stands in a class by himself. No one has even come close to the records Petty set in NASCAR’s biggest race.
So in this post, we pay tribute to Petty and his historic Daytona 500 records.
For sure, winning seven Daytona 500s is an incredible record, given that only one other driver has won this race has many as four times. Three of Petty’s wins were by margins of more than a lap. And consider this little nugget: When Petty won his fifth Daytona 500 in 1974, no other driver had even won it twice. That’s dominance. All told, Petty has won 10 points races at Daytona, a series record.
Three of Petty’s wins were by margins of more than a lap.
— Tom Jensen
Petty’s seven 500 wins came in four different brands of cars: Petty was victorious in Plymouths in 1964, ’66 and ’71; Dodges in 1973 and ’74; an Oldsmobile in ’79 and a Buick in ’81. Cale Yarborough won in a Mercury, a Pontiac and a Chevrolet. No one else has won the 500 in more than two different brands of cars. Petty also raced Fords and Pontiacs at Daytona, winning the 1984 Firecracker 400 in a Pontiac.
With 74 points race starts, Petty leads all drivers at Daytona International Speedway.
In addition to the 10 victories at Daytona, Petty also holds the track marks for most top-five finishes with 28 and top 10s with 37.
Most Dominant Performances
In his first Daytona 500 victory in 1964, Petty led 184 of 200 laps and finished one lap and 9 seconds ahead of the field. Petty also lapped the field when he won his second 500 in 1966. The ’66 race was the only 500 which Petty won from the pole.
Right Place, Right Time
In 1973, Buddy Baker (2020) led 156 of 200 laps in his No. 71 K&K Insurance Dodge and appeared headed to an easy victory. But when the engine let go in Baker’s car, Petty was there to take advantage, winning by 2 laps despite leading just 17 laps in the race.
Of Petty’s seven Daytona 500 triumphs, the closest – and arguably, the most surprising – came in 1979. In that race, leaders Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough (2012) crashed on the backstretch on the last lap, allowing Petty to steal the victory and finish a car length ahead of Darrell Waltrip (2012). The ’79 race, the first live, 500-mile, flag-to-flag broadcast on network television, became one of the most famous in NASCAR history.