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The 10 Greatest Daytona 500 Drivers in NASCAR History

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The 10 Greatest Daytona 500 Drivers in NASCAR History

Daytona 500
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This time of the year the entire stockcar racing world gathers its attention in one place. The Daytona 500 is the biggest race in stockcar racing history, future or present. Because it is the biggest race of each and every NASCAR season, it is a little more attractive to know which drivers excel there. Even better than that is to examine which drivers have been the best at Daytona in the entirety of NASCAR history.

Already there are names popping into your mind and it is very possible that at least a few of those names will make this slideshow. Before we get to that let’s look at what makes a great driver at Daytona. Obviously things have changed a great deal over the years but some key qualities are constant.

First of all the great ones have to be aggressive and patient at the same time. Somewhere there is an odd balance between the two. They have to know when to take the big risk and when to let the chance pass and wait until later. Speed clearly isn’t a problem for any of these guys but the close running; dramatic moving at Daytona requires this special balance.

In the end there is something of an x-factor involved. It is something unexplained that makes the difference between a decent competitor and one of the guys who always found his way to the front in the Daytona 500. Here is our top 10 great drivers in Daytona history. Make use of the comments section below if you want to. Feel free to post your personal top 10 there as well.

David Miller is a Senior Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @davidmillerrant, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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10 – Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick Dayton 500
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From the first time Harvick sat in a stockcar, he has been one to watch at Daytona. He has won a 500 and always runs extremely well at the track. Even if everything else is slacking, you can bet Harvick will be a factor at the end if his car hasn’t been knocked off the track.

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9 – Dale Earnhardt Jr

Dale Earnhardt Jr Daytona 500
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Dale Jr. is perhaps the person on this list that has the most expectations on his performance at Daytona and he rarely disappoints. Though he only has one 500 win to his credit, his car is always near the top of the field.

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8 – Bobby Allison

Bobby Allison Daytona 500
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Allison, the elder of one of the first famous father and son combos in NASCAR along with son Davey Allison, has three 500 wins to his credit. Some of those came in the older years but winning during that time with Richard Petty on the track is something to brag about. Allison is not only one of the best 500 drivers ever but one of the best NASCAR drivers ever.

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7 – Michael Waltrip

Michael Waltrip Daytona 500
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Though Waltrip might not be a big factor in the championship every season, you can look back at most Daytona 500 races he has been a part of and see him being a factor. Something is just different for the big man when he races Daytona. He has two 500 wins to his credit.

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6 – Cale Yarborough

Cale Yarborough Datona 500
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When you talk about the best NASCAR drivers of all time you must speak about Yarborough. He is clearly one of the best champions in the history of the sport. That includes his three wins in the 500. All of them came in the thick of the Petty era of NASCAR. I have a feeling that if you used the magic of time travel and put the Yarborough of the 1970s in a car right now that he would compete just as strongly.

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5 – Sterling Marlin

Sterling Marlin Daytona 500
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Marlin is a lot more than just another little known NASCAR driver. He might have one or two moments in his career that are viewed as negative but when it came to Daytona, Marlin was a factor. During his prime it didn’t matter if he had a big name ride or a standalone ride, he would be there at the 500. He has two wins to his credit.

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4 – Richard Petty

Richard Petty Daytona 500
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The King of the sport is named so because of his dominance for decades over nearly everyone else. Many things about his reign as the best of the best in NASCAR are a tad questionable but no one can take the victories off of the record books. I think he would have fewer than 7 Daytona 500 wins if he were driving in the last couple of decades regularly but he would still have a few to be sure.

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3 – Dale Jarrett

Dale Jarrett Daytona 500
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It might be a little too simple to forget just how good Dale Jarrett was in his prime. He won three 500’s in the thick of one of the most competitive periods of the sport. He won his three with four of this top 10 still running in their best years, including the two above him. Make no mistake about it, Jarrett was one of the best at Daytona and was always good everywhere else as well.

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2 – Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon Daytona 500
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Just like Jarrett before him on the list, Gordon won three Daytona 500 trophies when four of the guys on this list were at their best. It is impossible to look at the career of the driver once referred to as “Wonder Boy” and not admit he is one of the best drivers in the history of the sport. That includes him being one of the best; just a tad shy of being the best at Daytona.

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1 – Dale Earnhardt

Dale Earnhardt Daytona 500
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This isn’t a surprise to anyone I’m sure. During the entirety of his spectacular career the Intimidator just trashed the track at Daytona. The fact that he only had one victory in the Great American Race is just another interesting piece of his complete dominance of the 500. Without a doubt, there is no NASCAR driver who has ever lived that was better or ever will be better than Dale Earnhardt at the Daytona 500.