1. 2011: Trevor Bayne wins in his second career start
Trevor Bayne joined the historic Wood Brothers racing for the 2011 Daytona 500, and quickly earned the respect of his follow drivers, most notably Jeff Gordon, during the speedweeks. Content to push David Ragan to victory, Bayne inherited the lead after Ragan was black flagged for changing lanes on the restart before taking the green flag. Bayne held off Bobby Labonte and Carl Edwards during a second green-white-checkered finish to become the youngest winner of the 500, besting Gordon’s record by five years.
2. 1990: Derrike Cope inherits the win from Dale Earnhardt
Derrike Cope was running second on the final lap when Dale Earnhardt’s curse turned up again and Earnhardt blew out his right rear tire after hitting some debris from Rick Wilson’s car on the backstretch. Cope, who had never even finished in the top five, inherited the lead and held on to secure the victory. Cope became an overnight sensation, appearing on Late Night with David Letterman the next week. Cope would win another race that season under unlikely circumstances, but the team would close down by 1992.
3. 1963: Tiny Lund fills in and wins
Tiny Lund started the 1963 season shopping for a ride, any ride. When Lund’s friend Marvin Panch was involved in a testing crash while preparing a Ford powered Maserati for a sports car race. Panch spun, his car flipped and burst into flames. Lund rushed into the wrecked and pulled Panch from the car. Panch was unable to race in the 500 as a result of his injuries, and he and car owner Glen Wood both agreed Lund should drive the car in the 500. Lund used fuel mileage to squeak out a victory in the final lap, and defeated Ned Jarrett and others to take home the victory. After the crash, Lund would return to his journeyman status a few races later.
4. 2002: Ward Burton wins after Sterling Marlin hops out of his car
Ward Burton narrowly escaped a massive crash on lap 147 as Kevin Harvick spun directly in front of him.It would be another wreck, with five laps to go, that would put him in position to claim the victory. Then two-time Daytona 500 champion Jeff Gordon led the field down to a restart with six laps to go. However, cars began to spin shortly after the green flag waved and Sterling Marlin darted to the inside of Gordon. Gordon came down on Marlin and spun, damaging the right front fender of Marlin. Marlin beat Burton back to the finish line, but infamously hopped out of his car and tried to repair the damage caused by Gordon. Burton inherited the lead and held off Elliott Sadler, Geoffrey Bodine and others to take the unexpected victory.
5. 2001: Michael Waltrip wins
The upset nature of Waltrip’s 2001 victory is overshadowed by the immense tragedy that surrounded the finish of the race, the death of Dale Earnhardt. Waltrip, who was in his first race with Earnhardt’s team, had failed to win in 462 previous starts, a NASCAR record. Waltrip celebrated his victory for several minutes until Ken Schrader, who was involved with the wreck, told him Earnhardt had died.
6. 1994: Sterling Marlin finally scores a victory
Much like Michael Waltrip, Sterling Marlin had a long career before he finally scored his first victory at NASCAR’s biggest race after 278 previous Cup starts. Marlin took the lead after Ernie Irvan got loose with about 20 laps to go, and gave up several positions. Irvan was able to close on Marlin, but unable to pass him. Marlin would defend his title in 1995, becoming the first driver in NASCAR history to win back-to-back Daytona 500s for the first two wins.