Friday, February 17, 2017

Richard Petty Wins The "Daytona 500" - February 17, 1974

February 17, 1974

(Photo: Richard Petty- NASCAR Photography by Darryl Moran 93 via photopin)
Richard Petty wins the "Daytona 500" at Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida, USA.

ABC Sports announced a week before the race that the event's second half would be televised live, opening with a recap of the event's opening laps. Keith Jackson handled play-by-play commentary with Jackie Stewart providing color commentary. Chris Economaki reported from pit road.

The race was run with restrictor plates and was the most competitive in Daytona history with 59 official lead changes among 15 leaders. Richard Petty and Donnie Allison combined to lead 29 times for 120 laps while other strong cars included Yarborough, Bobby Allison, A.J. Foyt, Coo Coo Marlin, and pole-sitter David Pearson.

The race car drivers still had to commute to the races using the same stock cars that competed in a typical weekend's race through a policy of homologation. This policy was in effect until roughly 1975. By 1980, NASCAR had completely stopped tracking the year model of all the vehicles and most teams did not take stock cars to the track under their own power anymore.

The race saw two dramatic changes in outcome in the final twenty laps. Petty cut a tire and had to pit under green with 19 to go, putting Donnie Allison into the lead, but with 11 to go in the trioval a backmarker's blown engine blew out both front tires on Allison's Chevy and Donnie spun out, then lost a lap limping to pit road and getting new tires. Petty's margin of victory was 47 seconds. Yarborough was second, followed by Ramo Stott, Marlin, Foyt, and Donnie Allison. Marlin might have finished second, but mistook the white flag for the checkered, since both were being displayed when they crossed the line to get the white flag, as Petty was right behind them. Marlin let off on the back straightaway, and lost second to Yarborough, while Stott, known at the time mostly for his USAC stock car prowess, followed to take third, while Marlin had to settle for fourth.

During the start of the 1974 NASCAR season, many races had their distance cut ten percent in response to the energy crisis of the year. As a result, the 1974 Daytona 500, was shortened to 180 laps (450 miles), as symbolically, the race "started" on Lap 21 and the race is often known as the Daytona 450. The Twin 125 qualifying races were also shortened to 45 laps (112.5 miles).

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