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February 22: Lee Petty wins the first Daytona 500 on this date in 1959

February 22, 2013

Aside from having no caution flags, the first Winston Cup Daytona 500 run on this date in 1959 set the template for its future — lots of side-by-side racing, several lead changes among 59 entrants and a controversial finish. When the checkered flag fell, NASCAR chief Bill France declared Johnny Beauchamp in his Holman Moody Ford Thunderbird had beaten Lee Petty's Oldsmobile. Petty objected, as did other racers who thought Petty had a fender past Beauchamp at the line. It took three days of photo and newsreel analysis for France to reverse course and declare Petty the victor. We should know the winner of Sunday's Daytona 500 a little faster than that.