Video: Changes for NASCAR Begin at 1959 Daytona 500

The roots of hot rodding run deep in NASCAR. Just like championship drag racing, NASCAR started on the premise of, “my car’s faster than yours” and then proceed to try and prove it. This YouTube video that we found on the Autoholics website chronicles the 1959 Daytona 500 race which was contested on the speedway rather than on Daytona Beach.

Competing on the high-banked racetrack brought with it some major changes for driver strategy. The advantage of “drafting” behind the person in front of you was found to be a great advantage. Your engine would not have to work as hard if you’re tucked in closely behind the car in front of you and stayed in that envelope of calm air. This would allow your powertrain to last a little longer and also allow you to “slingshot” past the car in front of you because your car is actually going faster than your competitor.

The major drawback is that you need to have a good idea what the driver in front of you will do in a given situation. Without that knowledge and at high speed, the chances of hard contact or worse is extremely likely!

This event also marked a turning point for the engineering of race cars. The design of the new speedway allowed for sustained speeds far greater than previously experienced in competition. Because of this new situation, race cars had to be built to endure higher stresses for prolonged periods of time.

It was also the last year that convertibles were raced against hard tops at this level. At these speeds, the aerodynamic advantage of the hardtop just could not be overcome by the open racers.

Among the competitors highlighted in the video are NASCAR legends “Fireball” Roberts, Johnny Beauchamp and the eventual winner Lee Petty. Petty’s son Richard (a.k.a. Squirrel), a rookie driver at that time is also mentioned in the video. Anybody know whatever became of him?

About the author

Paul Lambert

Paul Lambert is an independent writer who grew up during a time in Southern California car culture when big horsepower and high speed were celebrated above all. He now understands that turning, stopping, appearance and comfort are equal in importance...almost! Paul tries to find something likeable and interesting about anything with wheels and thinks that the people, history, and culture of hot rodding are often as important to the story as the cars and events being featured.
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