The Great American Race is dubbed so for a reason - from great finishes, to great battles, to great moments, the Daytona 500 stands the test of time. In no particular order, here is my list of the top five Daytona 500 races of all-time.
1998 (Dale Earnhardt): Who doesn't still get goose bumps hearing Mike Joy's call, "Twenty years of trying, twenty years of frustration. Dale Earnhardt will come to the caution flag to win the Daytona 500." The moment transcended competition as crew members from other teams lined up on pit road to congratulate Earnhardt on his victory.
1979 (Richard Petty): What's not to love about a last lap battle for the lead between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison? Throw in the fact that Cale and Donnie never made it to the finish line after wrecking in Turn 3, which led a fist fight between Yarborough and Donnie's brother, Bobby Allison, and the fact that this was the first live televised broadcast of the Daytona 500 and you have a race that fans still talk about.
1959 (Lee Petty): The inaugural running of the Daytona 500 set the stage for the first of many exciting finishes. Lee Petty and Johnny Beauchamp came off Turn 4 of the final lap in a battle for the lead. Joe Weatherly, who was a lap car, was in the mix as well. All three cars crossed the finish line side-by-side-by-side. It took three days to declare an official winner.
2007 (Kevin Harvick): In his 23rd attempt to win the Daytona 500, Mark Martin led the charge to the white flag while Kevin Harvick led a line of cars on the outside. Coming out of Turn 4, Harvick and Martin were side-by-side. Chaos ensued behind them as cars wrecked everywhere. No caution flag came out and Harvick nipped Martin at the line by .02 seconds.
1993 (Dale Jarrett): On the last lap, Ned Jarrett - Dale's father who was also in the broadcast booth - took off his announcer's hat and simply became a father cheering on his son Dale on to victory. As they came to the finish line, Ned said, "He's going to make it! Dale Jarrett's going to win the Daytona 500!"
I know, I left out the 1976 race. If only this were a top six list!
Dayton International Speedway website
Lee Warren has interviewed a number of NASCAR drivers over the years, including Trevor Bayne, Bobby Labonte, Sam Hornish Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Morgan Shepherd, David Reutimann, Brad Coleman and others. He is currently working on a NASCAR devotional book for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, due out in the winter of 2012.