You probably don’t know who Johnny Beauchamp is.
He was the first winner of the inaugural Daytona 500.
Yes, the “first” winner.
On Feb. 22, 1959, Beauchamp was involved in a photo finish in the Daytona 500 with Lee Petty. Beauchamp was initially declared the unofficial winner, but after three days of reviewing film and pictures of the finish, NASCAR declared Petty the winner.
A native of Harlan, Iowa, the inaugural 500 was Beauchamp’s sixth career Cup Series start.
The NASCAR season continued, with Curtis Turner winning races at Orange Speedway in Hillsborough, North Carolina, on March 1 and Concord (N.C.) Speedway on March 8.
Beauchamp didn’t participate in those races. He made his first post-Daytona start on March 22 at Lakewood Speedway, a dirt track in Georgia.
Beauchamp started second next to Buck Baker and after taking the lead on the first lap, he never gave it away.
Beauchamp led all 100 laps around the 1-mile track, completing the event in 1 hour and 19 minutes. Baker finished second.
Petty, who started seventh, fell out of the race on Lap 39 due to an axle problem.
While Petty won 54 times in 427 career Cup Series starts, Beauchamp only made 23 starts between 1953-61. He’d win only one more race, at Nashville Speedway in 1960.
In 1961, Beauchamp and Petty were involved in a violent wreck on the last lap of the second Daytona 500 qualifying race when they both sailed through the guardrail in Turn 4. With minor head injuries, it proved to be Beauchamp’s final NASCAR race. With the injuries he suffered, Petty would only make six more starts.
Also on this date:
1987: Brad Teague, a veteran of 294 NASCAR national series races between 1982-2004, beat Dale Jarrett in an Xfinity race at Martinsville Speedway for his only career Xfinity victory in 241 starts. The 1987 season was Teague’s only year of full-time NASCAR competition.
2015: In an overtime finish, Brad Keselowski passed Kurt Busch on the last lap and and held him off win at Auto Club Speedway. It was Keselowski’s only win that year and it remains his only Cup win on the 2-mile track.