Inside the Numbers: Daytona 500

It’s “The Great American Race” and the Super Bowl of stock car racing. Come Sunday (2 p.m., FOX) another chapter will be written in the book that is the Daytona 500.

Of course, there’s a lot of history at play with what’s been NASCAR’s premier race dating back to Daytona International Speedway’s opening in 1959. That just means there’s plenty more to delve into as we go Inside the Numbers.

  • For the second straight year, Chase Elliott will lead a field of 40 cars to the start of the Daytona 500. Elliott is just one of five drivers to score back-to-back poles in the history of the event. The other four? Fireball Roberts, Joe Weatherly, Ricky Rudd … and Chase’s father, Bill Elliott. Crazy stat.
  • Alan Gustafson also became the second crew chief in NASCAR history to record three straight Daytona 500 poles. Gustafson, of course, was on top of the pit box when Jeff Gordon grabbed the top spot in 2015. The only other crew chief to accomplish the feat? Chase Elliott’s uncle, Ernie.
  • Bill and Chase Elliott are the only father-son duo to score consecutive Daytona 500 poles and they’re one of four father-son pairs to accomplish starting first at all. Richard and Kyle Petty; Bobby and Davey Allison; and Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. would be the other three.
  • Chase Elliott’s pole was also the 11th for Hendrick Motorsports, the most of any team in Daytona 500 history. Schrader (three poles), Gordon (two poles), Jimmie Johnson (two poles), Mark Martin and Dale Jr. account for the rest.
  • Daytona 500 winners have started from the pole to win nine times — more than any other position. Bill Elliott (1985, 1987) and Cale Yarborough (1968, 1984) have done it more than once. Dale Jarrett was the last polesitter to win the race in 2000.
  • The deepest anyone has started to win the Daytona 500? Matt Kenseth came from 39th to claim the rain-shortened 2009 edition.
  • Michael Waltrip will make his 30th and final start in “The Great American Race” Sunday afternoon. He’ll pass the mantle to Dale Jr. and Kenseth atop the list of active drivers with the most Daytona 500 starts (18).
  • Junior will start alongside Chase Elliott on the front row Sunday and he’s historically had a pretty good seat in the Daytona house. The driver of the №88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy has an average starting position of 5.89 in the Daytona 500 over the years, translating those starts to an average finish of 13.5 — tops among active drivers in both categories.
  • The 500 has not been kind to those in search of a first-time win over the years. Only Tiny Lund, Mario Andretti, Pete Hamilton, Derrike Cope, Sterling Marlin, Waltrip and Trevor Bayne have accomplished the feat. Bayne’s 2011 upset made him the youngest winner in the history of the event (20 years, 1 day) as well as the first driver (excluding 1959) to win Daytona in his first try.
  • The 2011 Daytona 500 — known for the “two-car tandem” drafting which made the event wide open — shattered records for lead changes (74), leaders (22) and cautions (16). The event’s 60 caution laps tied it with the 1968 edition. Those numbers won’t be approached this year.
  • Denny Hamlin will attempt to become the fourth driver to win back-to-back Daytona 500s. The other three? Richard Petty (1973–74), Cale Yarborough (1983–84) and Marlin (1994–95).
  • Jimmie Johnson will attempt to become the sixth driver to follow up a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title with a Daytona 500 win the next year. A win Sunday would put Johnson among Lee Petty (1959), Richard Petty (1973), Yarborough (1977), Gordon (1999) and Jarrett (2000).
  • As it stands now, Johnson is one of five drivers to win the Daytona 500 and the Cup title in the same season — joining Lee Petty, Richard Petty, Yarborough and Gordon. Johnson and Richard Petty are the only drivers to accomplish the feat more than once.
  • The winner of the 500 could become the sixth driver to sweep both Daytona Cup events with a victory in the Coke Zero 400 come July. Fireball Roberts, Cale Yarborough, LeeRoy Yarborough, Bobby Allison and Johnson have done this in the past.
  • Michael Waltrip, Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth, and Kevin Harvick will all look to become the fifth driver to win the Daytona 500 with more than one manufacturer. Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison and Jarrett are members of this list.
  • The most dominant Daytona 500 performance ever? Richard Petty led 184 of 200 laps to win the 1964 “Great American Race.” You wouldn’t have to look far for dominance among active drivers — Hamlin led 95 laps en route to Victory Lane last season.
  • On the other hand, Jamie McMurray needed just two laps in front to win the 2010 Daytona 500.
  • Look for NASCAR Overtime to come into play Sunday as it has seven times in the past (2005–07, 2010–12, 2015). The 2010 and 2011 500s were pushed to 208 laps due to overtime.

As always, much of this data can be found on the weekly statistical advance found on NASCARMedia.com. Racing-reference.info is also an essential source for racing knowledge.

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