1959 Daytona 500

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1959 Daytona 500
Race details[1]
Race 2 of 44 in the 1959 NASCAR Grand National Series
Lee Petty #42 and Johnny Beauchamp #73 battle on the last lap of the 1959 Daytona 500.
Lee Petty #42 and Johnny Beauchamp #73 battle on the last lap of the 1959 Daytona 500.
Date February 22, 1959 (1959-02-22)
Official name First Annual 500 Mile NASCAR International Sweepstakes at Daytona
Location Daytona International Speedway
Daytona Beach, Florida, U.S.
Course Permanent racing facility
2.5 mi (4.023 km)
Distance 200 laps, 500 mi (800 km)
Weather Chilly with temperatures reaching up to 68 °F (20 °C); wind speeds up to 15 miles per hour (24 km/h)
Average speed 135.521 mph (218.100 km/h)
Pole position
Time 140.121 mph (225.503 km/h)
Qualifying race winners
Duel 1 Winner Bob Welborn, Shorty Rollins and Jack Smith
Most laps led
Driver Jack Smith
Laps 57
No. 42 Lee Petty Petty Enterprises
Television in the United States
Network Not televised

The 1959 First Annual 500 Mile NASCAR International Sweepstakes at Daytona[2] (now known as the 1959 inaugural Daytona 500) was the second race of the 1959 NASCAR Grand National (now Sprint Cup) season. It was held on February 22, 1959, in front of 41,921 spectators.[3] It was the first race held at the 2.5-mile (4.0 kilometer) Daytona International Speedway.

By the 1990s, NASCAR's top-level series became a media circus that only races at facilities that are worth hundreds of millions of dollars.



Cotton Owens had the fastest qualifying lap, at 143.198 miles per hour (mph) (230.45 kilometres per hour [km/h]). The race had one qualifying race for Convertibles and one for the hardtop Grand National cars. Bob Welborn, winner of the 100-mile (160 km) Grand National qualifying race earlier in the week, started on the pole position.[4] Shorty Rollins won the Convertible qualifying race and started second. Twenty of the 59 cars in the Daytona 500 were convertibles.[5]


There were no caution periods in the race; making it one of the few "perfect games" in NASCAR history, though it would occur in three of the first four Daytona 500s, as the Daytona 500 also went caution-free in both 1961 and 1962. This would be repeated ten years later with the 1969 running of the Motor Trend 500. Welborn led the early laps in the race but his race ended after 75 laps (of 200) with engine problems. Other leaders in the first 22 laps of the race were "Tiger" Tom Pistone and Joe Weatherly. Fireball Roberts took over the lead in lap 23, leading the next 20 laps before dropping out of the race on lap 57 due to a broken fuel pump. Johnny Beauchamp led several laps before Pistone and Jack Smith battled for the lead during the next 100 miles (160 km). Richard Petty also had to retire from the race with an engine problem and earned $100 ($811.76 when adjusted for inflation) for his 57th-place performance.

Lee Petty battled with Beauchamp during the final 30 laps of the race, and they were the only two drivers to finish on the lead lap. Petty took the lead with 3 laps left, and led at the start of the final lap. Petty and Beauchamp drove side by side across the finish line at the end final lap for a photo finish. Beauchamp was declared the unofficial winner by NASCAR officials, and he drove to victory lane. Petty protested the results, saying "I had Beauchamp by a good two feet. In my own mind, I know I won."[4] Beauchamp replied "I had him by two feet. I glanced over to Lee Petty's car as I crossed the finish line and I could see his headlight slightly back of my car. It was so close I didn't know how they would call it, but I thought I won."[4] Early leader Fireball Roberts, who was standing by the finish line, said "There's no doubt about it, Petty won."[4] It took NASCAR founder Bill France, Sr. three days to decide the winner the following Wednesday.[4] In the end, with the help of photographs and newsreel footage, Petty was officially declared the winner.

The controversial finish helped the sport. The delayed results to determine the official winner kept NASCAR and the Daytona 500 on the front page of newspapers.

Official results[edit]

The race lasted 3:41:22, with an average speed of 135.521 mph (218.10 km/h).[3]


  1. ^ Weather information for the 1959 Daytona 500 at The Old Farmers' Almanac.
  2. ^ Caraviello, David (2008-02-16). "In 1959, first Daytona 500 changed city, sport forever". NASCAR. Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  3. ^ a b c Race results; Retrieved October 24, 2007.
  4. ^ a b c d e 1959: Petty's photo finish; Mark Aumann, Turner Sports Interactive; January 9, 2003; Retrieved October 24, 2007.
  5. ^ Daytona 500 Anniversary – The 50th Run; Stock Car Racing magazine; Benny Phillips; July 3, 2002; Retrieved February 21, 2008.