NASCAR Daytona 500
NASCAR Daytona 500: Past Champs of the "The Great American Race"
With the 2013 Daytona 500 only weeks away, we've decided to look back at the past champions of The Great American Race. From Earnhardt Jr. to Kenseth, these eight determined NASCAR drivers dashed into racing history.
2004 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. lived up to his family legacy when winning the Daytona 500 in 2004, the same track where his father died.
Interesting fact: Earnhardt Jr. is the co-owner of two new and used car lots in Florida with Rick Hendrick of Hendrick Automotive Group.
2005 Jeff Gordon
Jeff Gordon spectacularly finished first in 2005's Daytona 500, his third win in the The Great American Race. On the 198th lap, Gordon overtook Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Interesting fact: Gordon previously held the title for youngest Daytona 500 winner at 25 (ESPN.Go.com).
200β6 Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48, came in first ahead of Casey Mears in 2006's Daytona 500 after 203 laps.
Interesting fact: After Johnson's Daytona win, he was invited back to his Granite Hills high school to be inducted into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame, according to AOLNews.com.
2007 Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick won by the skin of his teeth in the closest finish since electronic scoring began. Mark Martin was leading when Harvick passed him in a trail of crashing cars. I knew I was going to be the bad guy at the end, said Harvick on ESPN.Go.com.
Interesting fact: Harvick won another close race at the Winston Cup in 2001, where he beat Jeff Gordon by .006 seconds.
2008 Ryan Newman
After 81 consecutive races and 23 years, Ryan Newman finally had his time to shine with a Daytona 500 win in 2008. As Fox News stated, it appeared Tony Stewart would win, but Newman blasted past him in the final moments.
Interesting fact: PitchEngine.com reported Newman obtained a B.S. degree in 2001 from Purdue University for vehicle structural engineering.
2009 Matt Kenseth
Kenseth won his first Daytona 500 in the rain-shortened race that only lasted 152 of 200 laps. According to ESPN.com, Kenseth's 2009 win also presented team owner Jack Roush with his very first Daytona 500 victory.
Interesting fact: Kenseth's website says he set a record for being the youngest winner in the ARTGO Challenge Series.
2010 Jamie McMurray
Jamie McMurray won Daytona 500 in 2010 which lasted more than six hours due to a pothole in the speedway that took two and a half hours to fix. Earnhardt Jr. was hot on McMurray's trail, but the young racer passed the finish line first in double overtime, according to the NYTimes.com.
Interesting fact: McMurray set a new record in Charlotte for winning the NASCAR Winston Series Cup in the shortest period of time after entering the series (FunTrivia.com).
2011 Trevor Bayne
Then 20-year-old Trevor Bayne became the youngest driver to win the Daytona 500 in 2011. In a collision-saturated race, Bayne finished first, only .118 seconds ahead of Carl Edwards (Nascar.com).
Interesting fact: Bayne began racing go karts when he was five, and he holds three World Karting Association championship titles, according to SkirtsandScuffs.com.
2012 Matt Kenseth
For the second time on our list, Kenseth emerged the winner from one of the most bizarre Daytona 500s in the race's 54-year history. The race was rained out for the first time and pushed to Monday. Later, an accident produced a massive fuel fire that halted the race for two hours. After a jet drier collision and fiery fuel leaks, Kenseth held off an encroaching Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the final lap.
Interesting fact: Starting his racing career at age 16, he won his first feature event in his third race.