Winning Daytona 500 and Cup title in same year difficult to do
Winning the Great American Race doesn't necessarily translate into a Great American Season. More often than not, writes Ryan McGee, the winner of the Daytona 500 does not go on to win the Cup title.
In 1959 NASCAR held its inaugural Daytona 500 (this year is the 50th anniversary, in case you've been asleep for the past week and haven't yet had the logo burned into your cranial matter). Lee Petty won the Super Bowl of stock car racing and 41 races later celebrated the NASCAR Grand National championship.
The few, the proud
From 1959 to '71, only two men were able to back up their trip to the beach with a trip to the head table at the champion's banquet -- Lee and Richard Petty. Lee pulled it off in '59, son Richard did the deed in '64 and '71.
If history is any indication, the guy leading this year's race might want to think about getting out of the gas and finishing second -- it just depends on which trophy he'd rather have.
It's getting harder
With each passing decade, winning the 500 seems to mean less and less when it comes to winning the Cup. In case you don't believe us, we dusted off our calculators to prove it.
Actually, it's only partially Mikey's fault.
Then again ...
So, in his quest for a Cup three-peat, will Jimmie Johnson suddenly be mindful of his NASCAR history books and lift while leading the final lap of the 500. Will he have this article printed and taped to his instrument panel as a reminder that past is prologue and that he's already used up his history-defying chip?Uh, no. As any driver will tell you, winning the Daytona 500 is always going to be better than not winning it, and after he takes care of business A he'll see what can be done about business B."Did we have a disappointing season in 2002?" Ward Burton asks rhetorically. "Hell, yes, we had a disappointing season. But do I look back on that year and say, 'Man, what a crappy year'? No, and neither does anyone else. My name is on that Harley J. Earl Trophy and there's nothing anybody can do about that. Last July they invited me down to Daytona to hang out with all the other winners -- Pearson, Petty, A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti and me. You tell me what's disappointing about that."Nothing, brother. Nothing at all.Ryan McGee, a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine, is the author of "ESPN Ultimate NASCAR: 100 Defining Moments in Stock Car Racing History." He can be reached at email@example.com.
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