Held in mid-to-late February since its inception in 1959, which just happens to be the same year Daytona International Speedway opened, the Daytona 500 is the most prestigious (and lucrative) race on the NASCAR schedule. It is one of two Cup Series races held at the famed speedway each year, the other being a 400-mile race that now closes out the regular season.
For those new to the sport, Daytona International Speedway is a 2.5-mile trioval track (which means a 500-mile race is 200 laps) that runs 40 feet wide with 18 degrees of banking at the start and finish lines and an incredible 31 feet of banking in the turns. To give you an idea of just how steep that is, the top of the track at the outside wall is more than 35 feet higher than the infield grass. Yeah, it’s intense. The speedway seats approximately 168,000 people, not including those who watch races from the infield and luxury suites.
For the last quarter-century, the Daytona 500 has been the most-watched race in the United States, although the Indy 500 typically gets more international viewers and has more spectators in attendance.
So now that you’ve gotten your quick history lesson, let’s take a look at the NASCAR drivers that have won the Daytona 500 the most times.
Richard Petty has the most Daytona 500 wins with seven
It shouldn’t be surprising for those who know NASCAR to see Richard Petty at the top of the Daytona 500 wins list. After all, “The King” has the most NASCAR Cup Series victories with an even 200, including seven wins at the Daytona 500.
Petty won his first “Great American Race” in 1964, the same year he won his first Cup Series (then called the Grand National Series) title. He won his second Daytona 500 two years later, his third in 1971, and then became the first to win the race back-to-back years in 1973 and 1974. Petty picked up win number six in 1979 and added to his record with a seventh in 1981.
Cale Yarborough won “The Great American Race” on four occasions
Currently in solo second on the Daytona 500 wins list with four victories is NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough, who racked up 83 Cup Series wins over the course of his career, which puts him in a tie for sixth on the all-time list with Jimmie Johnson.
The South Carolina native won his first Daytona 500 in 1968 and then waited nine years to win his second. He then became just the second driver after Petty to win the race in back-to-back years, pulling off the feat in 1983 and 1984.
Four NASCAR drivers have won the Daytona 500 three times
There are currently four NASCAR drivers tied for third with three Daytona 500 wins apiece, including Jeff Gordon and defending champion Denny Hamlin, who in 2020 became just the fourth driver to win the race in consecutive years, joining Petty, Yarborough, and Sterling Marlin.
- Bobby Allison (1978, 1982, 1988)
- Dale Jarrett (1993, 1996, 2000)
- Jeff Gordon (1997, 1999, 2005)
- Denny Hamlin (2016, 2019, 2020)
As for those drivers who have won the Daytona 500 twice, that’s a list of six, a list that includes Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and several other legends.
- Bill Elliott (1985, 1987)
- Sterling Marlin (1994, 1995)
- Michael Waltrip (2001, 2003)
- Matt Kenseth (2009, 2012)
- Jimmie Johnson (2006, 2013)
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2004, 2014)
Stats courtesy of Racing Reference