A Brief History of the 24 Hours of Daytona

With the 2020 24 Hours of Daytona coming up this weekend (25-26 January 2020), I thought it would be a good idea to explore a brief history of the 24 Hours of Daytona. For starters, it wasn’t always a 24-hour race. It started as a 3-hour race, then moved to a 2000 km race, then a 24-hour race, then back to a 6-hour race before finally settling on a 24-hour race in 1973. The race is held entirely within the Daytona International Speedway, utilizing part of the NASCAR oval and the infield. It is considered the kickoff of the racing season and is the start of the endurance racing triple crown along with Sebring and Le Mans.

Daytona in the 1960s – Ferrari and Ford

a blue 1964 Ford GT with white stripes
The 1964 Ford GT driven by Bob Bondurant and Richie Ginther

The first three-hour race at Daytona was run in 1962 and was a who’s who of racing legends. American Dan Gurney, who we profiled previously, took the inaugural win. Stirling Moss finished 4th while Roger Penske suffered oil pressure issues on lap 66 laps. David Hobbs dropped out with fuel issues 15 laps in while A.J. Foyt blew his engine on lap two. Mexican racing driver Pedro Rodriquez captured the 1963 3 Hours of Daytona in his Ferrari 250 GTO. Pedro and his brother Ricardo both died racing and have a track in Mexico City named after them. The race switched to a 2000 km race for 1964, nearly matching the 12 Hours of Sebring. Pedro Rodriquez won again, this time running with Phil Hill back in the Ferrari 250 GTO.

The 1965 2000 km of Daytona saw the debut of the Ford GT40 with Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby taking the win for Shelby American. Daytona switched to a 24-hour format in 1966, but with the same results, Miles and Ruby took the win this time in the Ford GT40 Mk II. Ferrari returned with a vengeance in 1967, finishing 1-2 with the Ferrari 330 P4. All the Ford Motor Co. cars failed to finish while some private entries finished in the middle of the pack. Porsche took their first of 22 wins at Daytona in 1968 behind the driving of Vic Elford and the team in a Porsche 907. Mark Donohue and Chuck Parsons drove the little known British-made Lola T70 to victory for Roger Penske at Daytona in 1969. Another Lola finished 2nd and 7th, which is two more than Ford or Ferrari brought to the finish line.

Daytona in the 1970s – Porsche Dominates

a Gulf-liveried Porsche 917K
The #2 Porsche 917K driven by Pedro Rodriquez – photo by Detectandpreserve

Pedro Rodriguez returned to the podium at the 1970 24 Hours of Daytona behind the wheel of the monster Porsche 917K which finished one-two. Rodriguez dominated finishing 45 laps ahead of the second-place Porsche. He would snatch his fourth win at Daytona in 1971 again behind the wheel of the Porsche 917K. This year was much closer for Rodriguez, who only finished one lap ahead of the Ferrari 512 of the North American Racing Team. He would die behind the wheel of a Ferrari 512 in July of that year. The race switched to a 6-hour format in 1972 with Mario Andretti and Jacky Ickx taking the win in a Ferrari 312 PB. As a side note, Jacky Ickx won Le Mans an incredible six times, a record that stood until 2005.

Daytona switched back to a 24-hour format in 1973 and would continue in that format to the current day. Peter Gregg and Hurley Haywood began their incredible run with a victory for Brumos Porsche in the Carrera RSR. Communists canceled the race in 1974 due to the energy crisis. Gregg and Haywood repeated their success in the same car for the same team in 1975. The Porsche Carrera RSR dominated the 1975 24 Hours of Daytona, finishing 1-2-3-4-5-6-8-9-11-12-15. Peter Gregg defective to rival BMW in 1976, winning in a BMW CSL finishing ahead of Haywood, who finished 3rd among a series of Carrera RSRs. Haywood responded by winning the 1977 24 Hours of Daytona again in a Carrera RSR, but this time with Ecurie Escargot. Peter Gregg returned to Brumos Porsche but fell back to 10th place.

a white Porsche Carrera RSR with blue and red stripes
A Brumos Porsche Carrera RSR from 1973 – photo by Gregory Moine

Gregg and Haywoood Continue Their Battle

Peter Gregg returned to victory with Brumos behind the wheel of the Porsche 935 at the 1978 24 Hours of Daytona. The next year, Haywood responded, winning in a Porsche 935 this time with Interscope Racing. The 1970s was very much the story between Peter Gregg and Haywood and Porsche’s dominance.

Daytona in the 1980s – Porsche Dominates, Again

A Porsche or Porsche-powered car won every 24 Hours of Daytona race of the decade minus the Jaguar outlier in 1988. The decade started with an all-German victory with the L.M. Joest team taking victory in the 1980 24 Hours of Daytona behind the Porsche 935J. In 1981, the team of Rahal, Redman, and Garrettson won again in a Porsche 935. The father-son team of John Paul Sr. and Jr. claimed victory in 1982 for JLP Racing. Do you want to guess what they were driving? You’re correct; it was a Porsche 935. AJ Foyt and his team drove a Porsche 935 to victory in the 1983 24 Hours of Daytona. 

the Kreepy Krauly March 83G
The March 83G of Kreepy Krauly Racing – photo by David Merrett

The 1984 24 Hours of Daytona is notable for several reasons. For one, an all South African team, Kreepy Krauly Racing, won the race with a March 83G Porsche powered car. The race also featured serial killer Christopher Wilder who’s team finished 52nd. The Beauty Queen Killer and racing driver and team owner killed at least nine women before he was gunned down. Porsche unveiled the Porsche 962 for the 1985 24 Hours of Daytona. It finished 1-2-3-4 with AJ Foyt and Al Unser Sr. taking the win followed by Al Unser Jr. in second. Al Unser Jr. would win the 1986 24 Hours of Daytona with the Porsche 962 in a 1-2-3 finish. He and his team repeated in 1987, where the Porsche 962 finished 1-2-3-4-5-6.

a white and blue Porsche 962 driven by Al Unser Jr
Al Unser Jr’s Porsche 962

In Comes Jaguar

the Castrol Jaguar purple white and gold XJR9
The Martin Brundle-piloted Jaguar XJR9 – photo by John Chapman (Pyrope)

Jaguar finally broke up Porsche’s dominance with the excellent Jaguar XJR9. Martin Brundle and his team drove to victory in the 1988 24 Hours of Daytona. The Jaguar XJR9 finished 1-3 with the Porsche 962 finishing 2-4-5-6-7-9. Porsche closed out the decade with another win this time with John Andretti and his team driving a Porsche 962 to victory.

Daytona in the 1990s – No One Dominates

the blue red and white Nissan R91CP
The Nissan R91CP

The 1990s began the way the 1980s ended, with Jaguar and Porsche going back and forth. Jaguar finished 1-2 with the Jaguar XJR-12D with the Porsche 962 finishing 3-4. Porsche responded, finishing 1-3-5 with the 962 in 1991 marking an end of Porsche-Jaguar dominance and the start of a shakeup at Daytona. Nissan brought an all-Japanese team to the 1992 24 Hours of Daytona winning with the Nissan R91CP. An all-American team, literally called the All American Racers, won the next year with Panelli Jones’s son piloting a Toyota Eagle Mk III. A freaking Nissan 300ZX won the 1994 24 Hours of Daytona besting a trio of Porsches. The German Kremer Racing Team snatched a victory with their Porsche-powered K8 Spyder in 1995.

The 1996 24 Hours of Daytona saw the first win for South African driver Wayne Taylor who appears a few more times in this article. That race marked the first and only time an Oldsmobile powered car has won the 24 Hours of Daytona. The next year saw a victory for Dyson Racing in the same car but with a Ford engine. A Ferrari won the 1998 24 Hours of Daytona, the first for a Ferrari since 1972. Dyson Racing returned to victory with the same Ford-powered Riley & Scott MK III in 1999.

Daytona in the 2000s – The Riley Chassis Dominates

the red Viper Team Oreca Viper GTS-R with white stripes
The Viper Team Oreca – photo by Andrew Basterfield

American cars entered the new millennium strong, dominating the lineup in the 2000 24 Hours of Daytona. The famous Viper Team Oreca Dodge Viper GTS-R took first place followed by a Corvette C5-R Another Team Oreca Viper finished 3rd followed by three more vipers in 5-6-7. Corvette responded in 2001, taking the victory with the C5-R. Of note is the other Corvette Racing C5-R that finished 5th piloted by the father-son team of Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Doran Lista Racing picked up a win in 2002 with a Dallara SP1-Judd. In 2003, A Porsche returned to the podium at Daytona for the first time since the Porsche 962 in 1991. Factory Porsche racing driver Jorg Bergmeister led his team to victory behind the wheel of a Porsche 911 GT3RS.

the blue SunTrust Ruley XI
The SunTrust Riley XI from 2005 – photo by Peter Fenelon

Christian Fittipaldi won the first of his three Daytona victories in 2004 behind the wheel of a Pontiac-powered Doran JE4. Afterward, the Riley chassis would go on the dominate 10 of the next 11 races. Wayne Taylor won his second 24 Hours of Daytona in 2005 behind a Pontiac-powered Riley XI. A Lexus-powered Riley XI won the next three for Ganassi Racing with Scott Dixon and his team winning in 2006 and Juan Pablo Montoya and his team winning in 2007-08. Brumos Racing closed out the decade with its first team win since 1978 with a Porsche-powered Riley XI.

Daytona in the 2010s – Riley and Cadillac Dominate

a black Cadillac Daytona Prototype
A Daytona Prototype Cadillac – Photo by Osajus

The Action Express Racing Porsche-powered Riley XX won the 2010 24 Hours of Daytona. Ganassi won again behind the driving of Graham Rahal and his team in the BMW-powered Riley Mk XX. Michael Shank Racing won an exciting race with their Ford-powered Riley MK XXVI in 2012. In that race, the top three were on the same lap at the end of the race. Chip Ganassi won again in the 2013 24 Hours of Daytona with Juan Pablo Montoya picking up his third win in the BMW-powered Riley Riley Mk XXVI. The 2014 24 Hours of Daytona was another exciting race with three Daytona Prototype Corvettes on the same lap. In the end, it was the Action Express Racing Corvette that would take the win by less than 1.5”  with Christian Fittipaldi picking up his second win.

Another close race occurred in 2015 with Chip Ganassi Racing picking up the win in their Ford Ecoboost-powered Riley Mk XXVI finishing less than 1.5” ahead of the Action Express Racing Corvette. Patron CEO Ed Brown drove his Tequila Patron ESM team to victory with their Honda-powered Ligier JS P2 in the 2016 24 Hours of Daytona. Pretty cool to see a gentleman racer win the 24 Hours of Daytona. Wayne Taylor Racing won his first victory as a team owner in 2017 with his sons Jordan and Ricky driving alongside Jeff Gordon in the prototype Cadillac. Cadillac would go on to win three straight times at Daytona. Fittipaldi picked up his third win for Mustang Sampling Racing in a Cadillac, and Wayne Taylor Racing picked up another win the close out the decade.


the layout for the 24 Hours of Daytona
The Layout of the 24 Hours of Daytona

The 2020 24 Hour of Daytona is this weekend. Can Cadillac pick up their fourth 1-2 finish in a row? Will the new mid-engine Corvette get a class win? Could another gentleman racer pick up a win? There are three Cadillacs in the Daytona Prototype class, including 2-time winner Wayne Taylor Racing. His son Ricky left for Acura to join Alexander Rossi, Helio Castroneves, and Juan Pablo Montoya. The chances are good that a Cadillac will win overall, but Acura is bringing a stacked team, so we’ll see.

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