Past Daytona Winners Gather

The Daytona International Speedway is kicking off their celebration of the 50th running of the Daytona 500 next February this weekend during the running of this weekend?s Pepsi 400. On Thursday a gathering of a virtual who?s-who in auto racing occurred when most of the living winners of NASCAR events at the Daytona International Speedway gathered for a group picture.

Some of stock car racing?s biggest winners were on hand, Seven-time 500 winner Richard Petty, three-time winners Bobby Allison, Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett. Also included was ?The Last American Hero? Junior Johnson, along with David Pearson, Darrell Waltrip and Buddy Baker.

Indy 500 winners who also won NASCAR?s biggest race were also there including legendary A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti. Also at the gathering was Marvin Panch the oldest living winner at age 81. Surprise winners, Pete Hamilton, Derrike Cope and Ward Burton joined retired drivers Ernie Irvan and Geoffrey Bodine. Current drivers, Bill Elliott, Kevin Harvik, Jimmie Johnson, Sterling Marlin and Michael Waltrip shared in the festivities.

Surprisingly absent was four-time winner Cale Yarborough. 1965 winner Fred Lorenzen also did not attend.

“This is like one very special class reunion,” said Andretti, who won the Daytona 500 in 1967. “You cherish moments like these to visit with a lot of your buddies that you’ve shared some time with over the years and that you looked up to and respected. I don’t think we’ve ever really assembled together like this before. It’s a special opportunity.”

Kevin Harvik enjoyed the chance to mingle with racing?s best, “You walk up and you see Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt … just knowing the history that you get to be around when you’ve won the Daytona 500 is something pretty special,” he said. “And to know it is pretty special to them still is something neat.”

Unfortunately, past Daytona winners, Fireball Roberts, Tiny Lund, Neil Bonnett and Dale Earnhardt lost their lives in racing accidents. While Lee Petty, Lee Roy Yarbrough, and most recently Benny Parsons died of natural causes. Davey Allison lost his life in a helicopter accident in 1993.

“We hope our race fans enjoy these 50th Daytona 500 special activities during the Pepsi 400 weekend and make their plans to return next February for the most anticipated racing event in history,” said Robin Braig, Daytona International Speedway president “These unique opportunities with these legendary drivers will give race fans a chance to look back on many of the great moments in the Great American Race.”
Perhaps Daytona winner Dale Jarrett summed it best when he said, “More than anything, I’d like to go and tell them all ‘thank you.’ They need to be told thank you for all they did for this sport.”

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