These and many more historical photos—plus stories about the Great American Race's past, present and future—will be part of a special issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED commemorating the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. Look for the issue at newsstands or on Amazon.com beginning Feb. 7.
From the first running of the 500, in 1959, when Lee Petty (42) edged Johnny Beauchamp ( Joe Weatherly, 48, was two laps down), to the latest, in 2007, in which Kevin Harvick (inset, 29) nosed out Mark Martin, fans have often been treated to pulsating endings.
When Bobby Allison won the '78 500 in a Ford, NASCAR's pit crews changed tires in shirtsleeves and the cars all came from American makers. Today the crews don fire suits, and the cars, like Michael Waltrip's Toyota Camry, no longer hail solely from Detroit.
Daytona International Speedway has seen more than its share of spectacular wrecks, from Richard Petty's sheet-metal-shearing cartwheels in '88 to Clint Bowyer's roof ride across the finish line last February (inset). Both drivers escaped without serious injury.