1980 Daytona 500

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the Daytona 500 (well, almost)

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So many things have happened over the 55-year history of the Daytona 500 that you could write a book about all the highs, lows and in-betweens.

You say you can’t get enough of information and minituae about the Great American Race?

Well, the folks from NASCAR’s statistics department have you covered. Here’s everything (well, almost) you’ve ever wanted to know about the Daytona 500:

* The 2014 edition will be the 56th running of the Daytona 500.

* Although the first Daytona 500 was held in 1959, it has been the season-opener only since 1982.

* 523 drivers have competed in at least one Daytona 500; 311 in more than one.

* 35 drivers have won a Daytona 500.

* 10 drivers have won more than one Daytona 500, led by Richard Petty with seven victories.

* The 10 drivers who have won the Daytona 500 more than once: Richard Petty (seven), Cale Yarborough (four), Bobby Allison (three), Dale Jarrett (three), Jeff Gordon (three), Bill Elliott (two), Matt Kenseth (two), Jimmie Johnson (two), Sterling Marlin (two) and Michael Waltrip (two).

* A driver has won back-to-back Daytona 500s three times. Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarborough (1983-84) and Sterling Marlin (1994-95).

* Active Daytona 500 winners and the number of NSCS starts in their careers when they won: Jeff Gordon won his third Daytona 500 on his 402nd career start (2005). Gordon also posted his second Daytona 500 win on his 190th career start (1999). Jimmie Johnson posted his second Daytona 500 win on his 400th career start (2013) and Matt Kenseth won his second Daytona 500 on his 437th career start (2012). Michael Waltrip posted his second Daytona 500 win on his 535th career start (2003).

* Seven drivers posted their career-first victory with a win in the Daytona 500: Tiny Lund (1963), Mario Andretti (1967), Pete Hamilton (1970), Derrike Cope (1990), Sterling Marlin (1994), Michael Waltrip (2001) and Trevor Bayne (2011).

* Three other drivers posted their career-first victory in (points-paying) qualifying races: Johnny Rutherford (1963), Bobby Isaac (1964) and Earl Balmer (1966).

* Lee Petty, who won the inaugural Daytona 500, and Trevor Bayne, 2011 Daytona 500 champion, are the only two drivers to win the Daytona 500 in their first appearance.

* Dale Earnhardt leads the series in runner-up finishes in the Daytona 500 with five; Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads all active drivers with four.

* Dale Earnhardt had 12 top fives in his 23 Daytona 500 starts, more than any other driver. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin and Terry Labonte lead all active drivers in Daytona 500 top-five finishes with six.

* Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty each posted a series leading 16 top 10s in the Daytona 500. Terry Labonte and Mark Martin lead all active drivers in Daytona 500 top-10 finishes with 12; followed by Michael Waltrip with nine.

* Only 12 drivers have an average finish of 10th or better in the Daytona 500, five of those competed in the Daytona 500 only once.

* Clint Bowyer has an 11.9 average finish in nine appearances, the best of the active drivers who have competed in more than one Daytona 500.

* 28 of the 35 drivers who have won the Great American Race, participated in at least two Daytona 500s before visiting Victory Lane.

* Dale Earnhardt competed 19 times before winning his only Daytona 500 (1998), the longest span of any of the 35 race winners.

* Six drivers made 10 or more attempts before their first Daytona 500 victory: Dale Earnhardt (19), Buddy Baker (18), Darrell Waltrip (16), Bobby Allison (14), Michael Waltrip (14) and Sterling Marlin (12).

* The driver with the all-time most Daytona 500 starts without a victory is Dave Marcis with 33 races; the active drivers with the most starts without a Daytona 500 win is Terry Labonte (31 races), Mark Martin (29 races), Joe Nemechek (18) and Tony Stewart (15).

* Kevin Harvick’s 0.020-second margin of victory over Mark Martin in the 2007 Daytona 500 is the 12th-closest overall since the advent of electronic timing in 1993, and the closest in a Daytona 500.

* Nine of the 55 Daytona 500s (16.3%) have been won from the Coors Light pole. The last to do so was Dale Jarrett in 2000. Jeff Gordon is the only active driver to accomplish the feat (1999).

* Cale Yarborough (1968, 1984) and Bill Elliott (1985, 1987) are the only two drivers to win the Daytona 500 from the Coors Light pole more than once.

* 16 of the 55 Daytona 500s (29.0%) have been won from the front row.

* 27 of the 55 Daytona 500s (49.0%) have been won from a top-five starting position.

* 40 of the 55 Daytona 500s (72.7%) have been won from a top 10 starting position.

* Matt Kenseth won the Daytona 500 from the 39th starting position in 2009, the deepest a race winner has started.

* Five reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions have gone on to win the Daytona 500 the following season: Lee Petty (1959), Richard Petty (1973), Cale Yarborough (1977), Jeff Gordon (1999) and Dale Jarrett (2000).

* Five drivers have won the Daytona 500 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in the same season, Richard Petty has done it four times: Jimmie Johnson (2006, 2013), Jeff Gordon (1997), Richard Petty (1964, 1971, 1974, 1979), Cale Yarborough (1977) and Lee Petty (1959).

* Danica Patrick on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2013 became the first female in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history to win a Coors Light pole for the Daytona 500 posting a speed of 196.434 mph.

* Janet Guthrie previously held the record for top starting position by a female NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver, starting ninth twice in 1977 – at Talladega Superspeedway on Aug. 7, 1977, and at Bristol Motor Speedway on Aug. 28, 1977.

* In 2012, Danica Patrick became the third female driver to compete in a Daytona 500 joining Janet Guthrie and Shawna Robinson.

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Longtime Knoxville Raceway promoter, Ralph Capitani, dies

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Photo via @KnoxvilleRaces Twitter
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Knoxville Raceway likely wouldn’t be what it is as one of the country’s most renowned short tracks without the work of Ralph Capitani.

Capitani has died following a battle of cancer (according to Speed Sport), news of which was announced Monday by the track. The longtime promoter at the track was born in 1932.

Capitani, better known as “Cappy,” oversaw a huge rise in the stature and popularity of the track’s premier event – the Knoxville Nationals – after taking the reins as the track’s new race director and promoter in 1978.

Some of the elements Capitani worked to implement were improved facilities, purses, safety standards, car counts and audience, the latter of which saw the Knoxville Nationals eventually make it to TV. He also established the Knoxville Raceway Hall of Fame.

In his 40th year at Knoxville in 2007, Capitani said the prestige of the Knoxville Nationals remained incredible.

“I think the Knoxville Nationals is the best sprint car race of the year, bar none,” he said in 2007, via InLappedTraffic. “It is the only time you see ALL of the best sprint car drivers competing on the same playing field. It is a United States and Internationally wide event.”

He retired from the track at the end of 2011.

Knoxville Raceway released a statement confirming Capitani’s passing, and thanking him for all he did to put the track and race on the map.

A portion of the statement reads: “A visionary in the sport, Cappy aimed to make sprint car racing at Knoxville Raceway grander, the purses bigger and the grandstands fuller. He achieved them all with a smile on his face and a hearty handshake for every team owner, driver, crew member and fan that ever crossed his path.”

IndyCar’s last big pre-season test occurs this week at Sebring

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Conor Daly. Photo: IndyCar
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Pre-season testing for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season will conclude this week with all eight full-season teams having two days at Sebring International Raceway’s short course on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Sebring marks the closest venue to simulate street course conditions; four of the first eight races are street races while only one street race, Toronto, occurs in the second half of the season.

Although this is private testing, this will be a de facto “spring training” on the 1.5-mile road course for teams to see what the others are running all at once. IndyCar’s official spring training, the Prix View test at Phoenix International Raceway’s 1-mile oval, occurred on February 10-11.

The bulk of the field runs tomorrow, with seven of the eight teams set to test – the only exception is Andretti Autosport. Andretti is listed to test on Wednesday.

All but one of the 21 full-season drivers expected for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg season opener on March 12 will test this week. The one not listed is Sebastien Bourdais of Dale Coyne Racing; Bourdais and Ed Jones tested at Sebring in January prior to the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

They’ll be joined by the three drivers making their test debuts, all for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports: Robert Wickens, Luis Felipe “Pipo” Derani and Luis Michael Dorrbecker.

Wickens tests tomorrow as part of his planned ride swap with James Hinchcliffe, with Derani and Dorrbecker set to test on Wednesday.

Sebring is usually a hotbed for tests over the IndyCar offseason. This year saw A.J. Foyt Enterprises (in late January with Chevrolet) and Chip Ganassi Racing (in early January with Honda) premiere their new manufacturers and aero kits at Sebring, among other teams that have tested here.

Although the test season has seen an increase in interest this year, the regular season starts in St. Petersburg and returns to NBCSN with Long Beach on April 9.

F1 Paddock Pass: 2017 launch roundup (VIDEO)

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The NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass returns today with a recap of the remaining launches of the 2017 Formula 1 cars that occurred over the weekend.

Williams was first to reveal a rendering of its 2017 car, but it wasn’t a formal launch. Sauber’s online launch properly kicked off proceedings last Monday, before Renault, Force India and Mercedes did actual launches, and then Ferrari (online) and McLaren (in Woking) both launched on Friday.

Official launches then followed for Williams, Red Bull, Haas and Toro Rosso over the weekend. Haas had pictures of its car leak the day before its planned launch as it was a filming day on track.

In this edition of Paddock Pass, NBCSN pit reporter and insider Will Buxton and producer Jason Swales recap the remaining cars revealed over the weekend.

Previous Paddock Pass editions from this week are below:

Testing continues this week with days two through four of the first test at Barcelona.

Alonso’s McLaren struggles on first day of F1 tests

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team McLaren MCL32 on track  during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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MONTMELO, Spain (AP) Troubled Formula One team McLaren has gotten off to a wretched start in preseason testing.

Fernando Alonso spent most of the first day waiting to get back out of the garage after his car broke down following just one lap at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Monday.

What the team identified as an “oil system” malfunction to its Honda-made engine kept the two-time world champion out of action until after the lunch break. Back behind the wheel, his 29 total laps was the lowest amount of the 11 drivers who participated.

Alonso also posted the second-slowest time, more than three seconds off the leading pace set by Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes. Only Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson was slower.

“It’s disappointing,” Alonso said. “You work for three months and at the track on the installation lap something breaks down and you lose the day.”

This misstep is the latest technical hiccup to plague McLaren since it paired up with Honda.

One of F1’s most successful teams with eight constructor titles and 12 driver titles, the British outfit has struggled since it switched from Mercedes to the Japanese automaker before the 2015 season.

After earning just a combined 27 points from Alonso and Jenson Button in the first year with Honda, the team showed some growth last season with 76 points and two fifth-place finishes. But that is still a far cry from the glory days of the Woking-based team whose last race win was in Brazil in 2012.

For his part, Alonso hasn’t won a race since he claimed his 32nd victory back in 2013 at the Spanish Grand Prix while with Ferrari.

“It is fair to say that after the difficulties we had the last three seasons, it’s a nice temptation for the media,” Alonso said.

“From the point of view of the team, we are disappointed and sad to arrive to the first day of testing and not run.

“We are focused on what we have to do to make up the lost time. We know that we have four days for each driver and now one day is gone to prepare for the world championship.”

Stoffel Vandoorne, who has replaced Button, will get his turn for McLaren on Tuesday.

McLaren team chief Eric Boullier acknowledged that the relationship with Honda is far from perfect.

“It is like any marriage, you can have some ups and downs,” Boullier said. “We went through a lot of stress through the last couple of years, but we have a positive and constructive relationship and I don’t expect this to change in the future.”

The opening test will run through Thursday.

The track near Barcelona will host a second round of testing from March 7-10 before the season starts at the Australian GP on March 26.