February 22 – Daytona 500

 

On this day in 1959, Lee Petty defeats Johnny Beauchamp in a photo finish at the just-opened Daytona International Speedway in Florida to win the first-ever Daytona 500.

The race was so close that Beauchamp was initially named the winner by William France, the owner of the track and head of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR).

However, Petty, who was driving a hardtop Oldsmobile 88, challenged the results and three days later, with the assistance of news photographs, he was officially named the champ.

There was speculation that France declared Beauchamp the winner in order to intentionally stir up controversy and generate publicity for his new race track.

Imagine that….

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