Ford: 100 years and counting.

Ford Racing announced last week a year-long celebration marking the 100th anniversary of the start of its racing program with a win by Henry Ford on October 10, 1901. In the first of a series of feature releases, Ford Racing looks back at some of its success in one of the world's great races - the Daytona 500. Other feature releases focusing on ''Great Drivers,'' ''Great Cars'' and ''Great Innovations'' will follow throughout the year.

Ford Racing announced last week a year-long celebration marking the 100th anniversary of the start of its racing program with a win by Henry Ford on October 10, 1901. In the first of a series of feature releases, Ford Racing looks back at some of its success in one of the world's great races - the Daytona 500. Other feature releases focusing on ''Great Drivers,'' ''Great Cars'' and ''Great Innovations'' will follow throughout the year.
Who will be the next NASCAR Winston Cup driver to pull into Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway?
Will he be with a first-year team, like Dale Jarrett in 1996? Will he be driving - very, very slowly - a car with a badly damaged front end, like David Pearson in 1976? Will he be a winless veteran filling in for an injured driver, like Tiny Lund in 1963? Will he be a champion from another series, like Mario Andretti in 1967 or A.J. Foyt in '72? Will he be a past Winston Cup champion like Jarrett in 1996 and again last year?
Will he be driving a Ford Motor Company product, like the aforementioned drivers and like Fred Lorenzen in 1965, Cale Yarborough in '68, LeeRoy Yarbrough in '69, Bobby Allison in '78, Bill Elliott in '85 and again in '87, and Davey Allison in '92?
Ford Motor Company - Ford and Mercury divisions - has won the Daytona 500 13 times starting with Lund's victory in 1963. Ford swept the top five spots that year. Lund, who was filling in for the injured Marvin Panch, was followed across the finish line by Lorenzen, Ned Jarrett, Nelson Stacy and Dan Gurney - all in '63 Ford Fairlanes. (See accompanying story.)
Lorenzen, who collected six top-five finishes in the Great American Race between 1961 and '67, earned his only victory in '65, leading a procession of 13 Ford Motor Company products - 11 Fords and two Mercurys - to the checkered flag in a rain-shortened race. Car owners Holman-Moody and Bud Moore both put two cars in the top four.
Andretti, winner of USAC championships in 1965 and '66, traded open wheels for fenders - specifically a Ford Fairlane - and won in '67. Cale Yarborough collected the Wood Brothers' second Daytona 500 victory when he won in a Mercury in 1968. One of LeeRoy Yarbrough's seven victories in 1969 was in the Daytona 500 - in a Ford.
Foyt, who succeeded Andretti as USAC champion in 1967, won at Daytona in '72, driving a Wood Brothers-prepared Ford. David Pearson would earn the Wood Brothers' fourth victory in the Great American Race when he managed to coax his Mercury across the finish line after he and Richard Petty made contact with each other - and more - coming out of the last turn on the last lap of the 1976 Daytona 500. (See accompanying story.)
Bobby Allison won in 1978, piloting a Bud Moore Ford Thunderbird - Moore's only Daytona 500 victory, and Thunderbird's first. Bill Elliott, who had collected three of his four Winston Cup victories in 1984, opened a record-tying '85 by winning the Daytona 500 in a Thunderbird, his first of 11 superspeedway victories that season. Awesome Bill from Dawsonville would win the Great American race again two years later.
Davey Allison, who finished second to his father, Bobby, in the 1988 Daytona 500, drove a Ford Thunderbird to victory in '92, the first of owner Robert Yates' three Daytona 500 victories. Jarrett, in the very first race for Yates' No. 88 team, debuted his Thunderbird with a victory in the 1996 Daytona 500 (see accompanying story), and then, in a Yates-prepared Taurus, won again last year.
So, who will win in 2001? Jarrett, again? Jeff Burton, who was second in last year's race and third in the championship quest? Rusty Wallace, who won four times and led the circuit with nine poles in 2000? Mark Martin? Ricky Rudd? Jeremy Mayfield? Matt Kenseth? Brett or Todd Bodine? Elliott Sadler? Kurt Busch? Andy Houston? Robert Pressley? Ricky Craven? Jimmy Spencer? Hut Stricklin? They will, after all, be driving Fords.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Feb. 24, 1963 - It was like an assembly line producing a succession of '63 Fords. But it wasn't the Rouge Plant in Dearborn, Mich., it was the finish line at Daytona International Speedway. Ford after Ford was taking the checkered flag in the 1963 Daytona 500 before a record crowd of 70,780 at the four-year-old tri-oval.
Tiny Lund, driving the Wood Brothers' famed No. 21 in place of the injured Marvin Panch, was across the finish line first. He was followed by Fred Lorenzen. And Ned Jarrett. And Nelson Stacy. And Dan Gurney. All were driving '63 Ford Fairlanes. And they finished 1-2-3-4-5 in the Great American Race.
Lund made the most of his fill-in opportunity, earning his first NASCAR Grand National victory in his 134th start and Ford's first victory at Daytona since the days of the beach-and-road course in 1950. Lund's Ford made it to Victory Lane on the same set of tires on which it started, 200 laps and 500 miles earlier.
''Back then, tires had tread on them and we knew back then that the tire would stick better as a slick,'' recalled owner Glen Wood. ''As they got worn down, they were better than they were with full tread on them - especially half-worn down. So, we just kept checking them.''
Ford's first lead didn't occur until Larry Frank moved to the front for laps 51 to 55. Lorenzen took his first lead on lap 70 and would lead six times for a total of 77 laps. Lund led five times for just 17 laps, including the last eight. In all, there were 30 lead changes among 11 drivers.
Lund finished 24 seconds ahead of Lorenzen, who would win the Daytona 500 two years later. ''[Lorenzen] had stopped and we didn't, and just got a splash of gas,'' recollected Wood. ''He was some in front of us when he stopped. It came down to about 10 laps to go. He stopped and was leading it and Ned Jarrett was running second at the time, and ... he came down pit road. Well, that left us out by ourselves and everybody began to wonder, 'Can he make it? Can he make it?' because the rest of them had all stopped. But they hadn't stretched their laps during the middle of it like we had. So, we knew we could make it because we had just run 42 laps twice, and there was only 40 to go at the finish, so we weren't out of gas.''
Jarrett earned his best finish ever at the 2.5-mile superspeedway that year. Although the 1961 and '65 points champion never won the Daytona 500, his son Dale, the '99 points champ, would win it three times - including in 2000. Stacy's fourth-place showing followed three victories in 1962 - including the Rebel 300 at Darlington Raceway and the World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Gurney - who started a string of four consecutive Riverside 500 victories a month before the 1963 Daytona 500 - was in the midst of becoming one of the most versatile and successful drivers of all time. The Motorsports Hall-of-Famer won in the four major categories - Grand Prix, Indy Car, NASCAR and Sports Car - the first driver to accomplish that feat.
Ford Motor Company would close out the 1960s with four more victories in the Daytona 500: Lorenzen in '65, Mario Andretti in '67, Cale Yarborough (in a Mercury) in '68, and LeeRoy Yarbrough in '69. Since 1963, Ford and Mercury divisions have combined for 13 victories in the Great American Race.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Feb. 15, 1976 - David Pearson did his part to open the 1976 bicentennial year with a bang. Literally.
Pearson made his way across the infield grass and crawled slowly across the finish line following a final-lap, final-turn collision involving Richard Petty to collect his first - and only - Daytona 500 victory. Pearson and Petty, the only two drivers in NASCAR history to win more than 100 races, traded the lead over 45 of the last 46 laps before their infamous wreck just before the finish line.
Pearson's Mercury and Petty's Dodge both sustained extensive front-end damage in the crash. ''We didn't hear anything until they came in sight, looping around and around through the grass,'' recalled winning car owner Glen Wood, who was on pit road at the time. ''David didn't let his car die. He somehow, I guess, got it out of gear, pushed the clutch in so it didn't kill the engine. Richard, of course, had spun further on down toward the starting line. David hollered on the radio, 'Did he go across the line?' Eddie [Wood, crew member at the time] told him no, he stalled down there, and Pearson said, 'I'm comin'.' So, he kept it running and got it back on the track and Richard never could.
''It did [seem like an eternity]. It was from about the pit entrance as where he had spun to, and Richard had spun all the way down nearly, probably, maybe 50 yards from the line and we just knew he was gonna spin all the way across it and win it going backwards or something in the grass, but he didn't quite get there.''
Petty, who at the time had won the Great American Race five times, would finish in second place behind Pearson, whose exciting - if not slow-motion - first-place showing was his second straight to open the season and helped launch a Winston Cup-leading 10-victory campaign. In 22 races in 1976, Pearson collected 16 top-five and 18 top-10 finishes en route to earning a career-best $283,686.
The race featured 36 lead changes among 11 drivers. A.J. Foyt, who won the Daytona 500 in 1972 after a near-miss in '71, dominated the middle portion of the '76 race, leading 66 of 100 laps before and engine problem ended his day on lap 143. Pearson led nine times for 37 laps and Petty led five times for 40 laps.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. Feb. 18, 1996 - It certainly didn't take long for Robert Yates Racing's No. 88 team to collect its first victory: One race. And not just any race, the Daytona 500.
Robert Yates Racing, which bought the successful No. 28 team from Harry Ranier prior to the 1989 season, started a second team before the '96 campaign. Dale Jarrett, who was the driver for Joe Gibbs Racing's start-up operation in 1992 and had won the Great American Race the following year, was selected to pilot Yates' No. 88 Thunderbird, sponsored by Ford Quality Care Service.
''When we got to Daytona in '96, we had two cars capable of winning,'' owner Robert Yates recalled. ''We tested really good, we qualified good, each car won one of the 125s, we had the two quickest cars at Daytona.
''It was, 'Man, if we don't mess up in the pits or something doesn't break, I think we got a great shot at winning this race.' Not many times do you have that confidence going in, but '96 was one of those years.''
Jarrett took his fifth - and final - lead of the day on lap 177 and held off seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt to complete the 88 team's triumphant debut. Earnhardt, who also finished second to Jarrett in 1993, would have to wait two more years before collecting his first Daytona 500 victory.
''When you start something basically from scratch you really don't know what to expect,'' Jarrett said a few years later. ''We started things off in the right way by winning the Busch Clash in 1996 and then winning the Daytona 500.''
Those two victories were the first steps on a trek that would culminate three years later with a championship.

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