Daytona 500 History – Best of the 1980s: A Fan’s View

In the 1980s, speeds at Daytona International Speedway began to climb - and fast. By the late 1980s, the cars were so fast at Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway, and the wrecks so incredible, that what we now know as "restrictor-plate racing" brought a new dimension to superspeedway racing in NASCAR's big leagues. Thanks to that change, these drivers were some of the fastest to ever qualify and win in the Daytona 500.

Buddy Baker - Baker only won one Daytona 500, but the 1980 race still holds the record for being the fastest race ever completed: 2 hours, 48 minutes and 55 seconds, with an average speed of 177.602 mph.

Richard Petty - "The King" completed his amazing run of seven Daytona 500 wins with a victory in 1981; it marked the ninth victory for Petty Motorsports in the race. Petty would earn the final win of his career in July 1984 at Daytona in the Firecracker 400.

Bobby Allison - Allison won three Daytona 500s in his career, including two in the 1980s: 1982 and 1988. With his 1988 win, he became the oldest driver to win the Daytona 500 at age 50, and he and his son Davey became the first father-son one-two finish in the 500. Sadly, Allison has no recollection of that win, as he was involved in a horrific accident later that year at Pocono Raceway which ended his driving career; five years later, Davey died of injuries suffered in a helicopter crash at Talladega Superspeedway.

Cale Yarborough - another Hall of Famer with multiple wins in the 500, Yarborough won the race in 1983 and 1984, marking his third and fourth wins in the "Great American Race."

Bill Elliott - Elliott, who won the Daytona 500 twice (1985 and 1987), currently holds the record for being the fastest man to qualify for the Daytona 500: in 1987, he won the pole at a speed of 210.364 mph. Elliott also holds the record for qualifying at Talladega with a speed of 212.809 mph, set the same year.

Geoff Bodine - the Chemung, New York native won his only Daytona 500 in 1986, besting Dale Earnhardt when "The intimidator" had to stop for a splash-n-go with three laps remaining.

Darrell Waltrip - after 17 tries, Waltrip, driving the #17 Tide Chevrolet, won his first and only Daytona 500 in 1989. He is best remembered for his victory lane antics that day, including his impromptu version of the "Icky Shuffle."

Paula is a long-time NASCAR fan who also covers the sport for Skirts & Scuffs and Examiner.com.