Sunday 21st February 1954
Crowds gathered at the 1954 Grand National at Daytona to see which of the two dominant models of stock car–the fast Olds 88 or the tight handling Hudson Hornet–would take control of the race. However, the first car into the last turn of the first lap wasn’t a Hudson or an Olds, but rather Lee Petty’s Chrysler New Yorker. Unfortunately, Petty was going faster than his car, and he crashed through the wooden embankment at the back of the turn. Unperturbed, Petty got back in the race. Nineteen laps later his breaks failed. Driving the rest of the race with no breaks, Petty downshifted his way into a competitive position. A late stop for fuel, though, sealed his fate, as he overshot his pit and lost precious seconds. Petty crossed the finish line second to the favored Olds 88 car driven by Tim Flock. The next morning Petty, eating breakfast with his family in a hotel restaurant, learned that Flock’s Olds had been disqualified. Petty had won Daytona with no brakes.