2002 Daytona 500
|Race 1 of 36 in the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season|
Daytona International Speedway
|Date||February 17, 2002|
|Location||Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida|
|Course|| Permanent racing facility |
2.5 mi (4.02336 km)
|Distance||200 laps, 500 mi (804.672 km)|
|Weather||Temperatures reaching up to 70 °F (21 °C); wind speeds approaching 12 miles per hour (19 km/h)|
|Average speed||130.810 miles per hour (210.518 km/h)|
|Driver||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports|
|Qualifying race winners|
|Duel 1 Winner||Jeff Gordon||Hendrick Motorsports|
|Duel 2 Winner||Michael Waltrip||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.|
|Most laps led|
|Driver||Sterling Marlin||Chip Ganassi Racing|
| No. 22
|| Ward Burton
||Bill Davis Racing|
|Television in the United States|
|Announcers||Allen Bestwick, Benny Parsons, and Wally Dallenbach Jr.|
|Nielsen Ratings|| 10.9/26 |
(18.8 million viewers)
The 2002 Daytona 500, the 44th running of the event, was held on February 17 at Daytona International Speedway. The race was won by Ward Burton. Rookie Jimmie Johnson won the pole, with fellow Daytona 500 rookie Kevin Harvick qualifying second, the first time the field would be led by two first-time Daytona 500 drivers. The race was the last for long-time veteran driver Dave Marcis.
As part of the television contract signed at the end of the 2000 NASCAR season, the 2002 Daytona 500 was televised by NBC. Allen Bestwick provided the play-by-play in the booth alongside color commentators Benny Parsons and Wally Dallenbach, Jr. The prerace show was hosted by Bill Weber, who reported from the pits with Matt Yocum, Marty Snider, and Dave Burns. This was the first time NBC televised the Daytona 500.
Early favorite Tony Stewart was struck with an engine failure on lap 3. Another favorite, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., cut a tire at lap 23 after running over debris in second position, which prompted the race's first yellow flag. He managed to come through the pack into the Top 10 with a new nose after the tire tore up the right-front fender. On lap 79, Dave Marcis had engine problems causing him to exit the race, which brought his Winston Cup career to an end. Just before halfway, Earnhardt Jr. got into more trouble when his brakes failed as he tried to pit bringing out a third caution. On the following restart Brett Bodine spun off Kenny Wallace's bumper, and the yellow flag came back out.
On lap 138 rookie Shawna Robinson and Mike Skinner touched exiting Turn 2, bringing out the fifth yellow flag of the race. But the course of the race took a twist on Lap 148 when contact between Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick (racing in the Top 5) triggered The Big One, collecting 18 cars. Contenders Matt Kenseth, Ricky Rudd, Ken Schrader, John Andretti, Jerry Nadeau, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr (his third problem in the race) were eliminated.
On a restart with 5 laps to go, 1997 and 1999 winner Jeff Gordon led '94 and '95 winner Sterling Marlin. A chain reaction began in the 8th or 9th position after someone missed a gear. 5 cars were damaged, including Michael Waltrip who spun into the pits and nearly hit the pace car being driven by Jay Leno. Up front Marlin came through the gears a bit quicker than Gordon, and took his momentum to the inside. Gordon went to block, but only turned himself. Marlin just beat Ward Burton to the yellow flag, but on the backstretch during the red flag, he got out of the car and pulled on his damaged fender. NASCAR rules forbid work of ANY kind occurring under a red flag, except for non-points events. Thus he was penalized before the restart. South Boston's Ward Burton and Emporia's Elliott Sadler (for the Wood Brothers from Stuart) were first and second for the state of Virginia. 1986 winner Geoffrey Bodine was the feel-good story of the day, finishing third at the track that nearly claimed his life in a 2000 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, which was Phoenix Racing's best finish until winning with Brad Keselowski at the 2009 Aaron's 499.