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Hood: Introducing One Person’s Daytona 43

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, February 13 2012

When picking the top 43 drivers in Daytona 500 history, Richard Petty would be a good place to start. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

With the season-opening Daytona 500 less than two weeks away, my friends at SPEED got me to thinking over the weekend by announcing they will soon reveal their 43-driver “Great American Grid.”

Their grid will consist of the greatest drivers who have competed in the Daytona 500, all the way back to the inaugural running of the event on the 2.5-mile tri-oval in 1959.

If I was a car owner and could pick any driver in his prime to pilot my machine in the sport’s most important race, who should I choose?

If I was a fan who doled out big bucks for a grandstand seat and over-priced hotel room, which drivers would I want to see compete in a 500 mile race for the ages on the high banks of Daytona?

There have been 35 different winners of the Daytona 500, including eight drivers who have scored multiple victories.

But a handful of the former 500 champions didn’t make my cut.

So if I could align the stars and assemble 43 of the greatest competitors in the history of stock car racing at their peak to compete for 200 laps at Daytona, here’s how my driver lineup (in no particular order) would look:

1. Richard Petty

2. Cale Yarborough

3. Bobby Allison

4. Jeff Gordon

5. Dale Jarrett

6. Bill Elliott

7. Sterling Marlin

8. Michael Waltrip

9. Lee Petty

10. Junior Johnson

11. “Fireball” Roberts

12. “Tiny” Lund

13. Mario Andretti

14. LeeRoy Yarbrough

15. A.J. Foyt

16. Benny Parsons

17. David Pearson

18. Buddy Baker

19. Darrell Waltrip

20. Ernie Irvan

21. Davey Allison

22. Dale Earnhardt

24. Jimmie Johnson

25. Kevin Harvick

26. Matt Kenseth

27. Ryan Newman

28. Bobby Isaac

29. Pete Hamilton

30. Marvin Panch

31. Tony Stewart

32. Kyle Busch

33. Kurt Busch

34. Donnie Allison

35. Mark Martin

36. Tim Richmond

37. Neil Bonnett

38. Joe Weatherly

39. Carl Edwards

40. Clint Bowyer

41. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

42. Fred Lorenzen

43. Juan Pablo Montoya

So what do you think?

Who’s missing from my list? Should former 500 winners Derrike Cope, Ward Burton and Trevor Bayne be included?

Who should be excluded? Clint Bowyer is a two-time winner at Talladega. But does that carry enough weight for him to be included in this lineup?

Let the debate begin…

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, February 13 2012
3 Comments

3 Comments »

  • Lugnut says:

    I can see you know very little about racing and only how to read a spec sheet.

    You have Michael Waltrip on there and not a Rusty Wallace.

    Michael Waltrip won a rainout and a block fest while in one of the two fastest cars on the track…cmon Danica could have easily done it in that car. And you leave Ward off……cmon Ward could drive while Michael is only a Brian France puppet if not more!

    Talk to some historians before writing next time!

  • Chris says:

    I have nothing against JPM, but I would drop him off the list and add Rusty Wallace to it.

  • Charlie says:

    I would drop Clint Boyer and add Curtis Turner.