Running the facts, figures and numbers on the Daytona 500
The Daytona 500 is an event that transcends its own sport, much the same as the Super Bowl, the World Series or the Masters. Over the last 54 years, a lot of history has been made just off the beach (and just on it) on Daytona International Speedway's 2.5-miles of asphalt. The following is a look at the numbers, facts and figures of NASCAR's biggest race.
NASCARâs Super Bowl Explosion
Winnerâs Share In The First Daytona 500 (1959): $19,050 (Lee Petty)
Winnerâs Share In Last Yearâs Daytona 500 (2012): $1,588,887 (Matt Kenseth)
Full Purse, first Daytona 500 (59 starters): $67,760
Full Purse, 54th Daytona 500 (43 starters): $17,277,409
Last-place share in 1959: Ken Marriott, 59th place, $100
Last-place share in 2012: David Ragan 43rd place, $267,637
Average income, Middle-Class American: $41,560 per year
(Source: http://bber.unm.edu/econ/us-pci.htm) -- U.S. Dept. Of Commerce)
This 500 â¦ Brought to You by the Number Six
The big buzzword youâve hear throughout Speedweeks sounds more like an education initiative than a race car. But âGen-6â is NASCARâs biggest change this decade, a new chassis type rolling out in 2013 designed to win back fans through a sleeker, âstockâ look that make the Ford Fusions, Chevy SS models, and Toyota Camrys more like what youâd see on the street.
âThe collaborative efforts between the manufacturers, teams, and NASCAR has been unparalleled in my 34 years in the sport,â crowed Robin Pemberton last month on the Gen-6âs pending Daytona debut.
Translation? NASCAR learned from the dreadful Car of Tomorrow communication debacle, where even CEO Brian France admitted recently âwe made some errorsâ in a model that was highly criticized. This time, theyâve kept everyone from your low-level crewman, to tire specialist, to car owner, to their top R&D engineers on the same page in developing a car they believe will come out competitive.
Tandem Drafting No More
Itâs the Valentine Dayâs breakup even Cupid is privately cheering. In January testing, âGen-6â hated being paired up, with even the slightest two-car bumpdraft causing instability to the point it just wonât happen in the 500. Even plate expert Dale Earnhardt Jr. started a 12-car wreck in testing by trying to lightly push Marcos Ambrose in the turns. The Sprint Unlimited witnessed the same thing, as a six-car wreck decimated the field just 15 laps into the event.
âIâm anticipating handling is going to be a little bit more of a premium than what weâve had in the past,â says Jeff Gordon, pointing to less downforce in the rear of the car. Others claim the new drafting package is similar to what NASCAR had a decade ago, where drivers laid back to âset upâ their slingshot moves inside a large pack.
A Guaranteed Photo Finish?
Say what you will about restrictor plates, first bolted onto the cars in 1988 at Daytona as a safety measure to keep fans and drivers safe. But one thing you canât argue is that horsepower-sucking piece of metal virtually guarantees âcloseâ finishes. 24 of the last 25 Daytona 500s, since the inception of this âplateâ era have produced a margin of victory equaling roughly two car lengths or less. Only Darrell Waltripâs fuel-mileage gamble, in 1989, was the exception to the rule (Waltrip won by a âcomfortableâ 7.64 seconds over Ken Schrader). No other sportsâ premier event has such a track record of razor-close endings.