Thursday, December 22, 2016

the 1st Daytona 500, the 1st controversial Petty win

the top car is a lap down, but it blocked the official Nascar camera

On February 22, 1959, the first Daytona 500 had been run, but it wouldn't be complete for another 72 hours.

There were 59 cars in 1959 -- 22 were convertibles. There were 33 lead changes. The race lasted three hours, 41 minutes and 22 seconds. Announced attendance was nearly 42,000.

Just before they crossed the finish line, Beauchamp appeared to have the edge. At the line, though, Petty appeared to have drawn even.

Beauchamp was declared the winner by Bill France; Lee Petty, the greatest disputer of decisions in the history of NASCAR, drove straight to Victory Lane alongside him, having declared himself the winner.

The speculation is that France declared Beauchamp the winner, then used the confusion to create a free publicity machine to generate limitless news for his new race track for 3 straight days.

On the evening of February 25, Bill France announced that conclusive evidence had surfaced showing that Lee Petty had indeed won. He had looked through press photos of the finish to ascertain the car in the lead.

However, Wild Bill Harrison, driving the Bob Potter Impala, claimed Petty was a lap down due to pit stops. This was collaborated by Joe Lee Johnson, another driver.

Nascar lore had been created by three days of intrigue, following only four hours of less-than-enthralling racing. This situation has come to be viewed as the quintessential Bill France stroke of genius.

"That was a PR deal," Richard Petty says, smiling slyly at the memory. "Bill France knew my daddy had won that race."

But skip to the 12 minute 30 second mark and see the finish for yourself. It doesn't answer how many laps Lee Petty had raced so far, but I doubt anything ever will.

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