NASCAR's biggest race of the season is the Daytona 500. Even though it's the first race of the year, a driver can cement his legacy with how he performs there. Here are the five who had the most success in the Daytona 500 over the course of their career.
Related: Daytona 500 Winners List
6. Denny Hamlin
Wins: 3 (2016, 2019, 2020)
Hamiln's back-to-back wins put him on this list. He failed in his attempt at the first-ever three-peat in 2021, but it doesn't diminish the success he's had on the famed track.
5. Dale Jarrett
Wins: 3 (1993, 1996, 2000)
Poles: 3 (1995, 2000, 2005)
Jarrett’s first Daytona 500 win was one of the more memorable moments in NASCAR history. After battling with Dale Earnhardt for first place in a moment that was coined the “Dale and Dale Show,” Jarrett pulled ahead in the final lap. His father, former NASCAR driver and announcer Ned Jarrett, then called his son home on the air. Ned apologized to Earnhardt later, who just smiled and said, “I’m a father too.” Jarrett would win two more times before retiring in 2008.
4. Jeff Gordon
Wins: 3 (1997, 1999, 2005)
Poles: 2 (1999, 2015)
Gordon was exceptional in every aspect of NASCAR and the Daytona 500 is no different. He won his first Super Bowl of Racing en route to his second Winston Cup title in 1997 and the “Rainbow Warrior” (a nickname given because of the DuPont paint scheme on his car) won two other 500s along with three other championships.
3. Bobby Allison
Wins: 3 (1978, 1982, 1988)
Second Place Finishes: 3 (1975, 1980, 1981)
Third Place Finishes: 2 (1968, 1970)
Poles: 1 (1981)
Allison was 40 years old when he won his first Daytona 500 and seemed to hit his stride from there. He finished second in 1980 and ‘81 and won again in ‘82. Then in 1988, the 50-year-old Allison edged past his son Davey to become the oldest driver to ever win the Daytona 500. Sadly, Allison was involved in a devastating wreck at Pocono four months later and was forced to retire.
2. Cale Yarborough
Wins: 4 (1968, 1977, 1983, 1984)
Second Place Finishes: 4 (1966, 1974, 1978, 1982)
Third Place Finishes: 1 (1975)
Poles: 4 (1968, 1970, 1978, 1984)
Yarborough helped transform NASCAR from a southern-based sport to a national one. His win at Daytona in 1977 made him only the second driver to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated and was another milestone in an amazing career. Yarborough and Bill Elliott are the only two to win the Daytona 500 from the pole position twice. He also is one of three drivers to win at Daytona two years in a row. One is Sterling Marlin and the other holds the top spot on this list.
1. Richard Petty
Wins: 7 (1964, 1966, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1979, 1981)
Second Place Finishes: 2 (1962, 1976)
Third Place Finishes: 3 (1960, 1987)
Poles: 1 (1966)
Petty is still NASCAR’s biggest star and he shined brightest on its greatest stage. His most memorable win at Daytona came in 1979, when CBS decided to broadcast the entire race for the first time ever. Petty had not won in 45 races, but held off a Who’s Who of NASCAR legends to take the checkered flag. A fight between Cale Yarborough, Donnie Allison and Bobby Allison that broke out in the infield overshadowed the victory. Nevertheless, a large East Coast audience snowed in by a blizzard got to see the high drama of NASCAR and the brilliance of its greatest driver. The moment is credited with increasing the sport’s popularity.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.