74 days until the Daytona 500: 1974 ‘Daytona 450’ was a bizarre one

BREAKING NEWS: The Daytona 500 is just 74 days away, with the green flag set to fly on Feb. 26, 2017 on FOX.

In honor of the Super Bowl of stock-car racing being just 74 days away, we take you back to the year 1974, when King Richard Petty won his fifth of a record seven Daytona 500s.

Richard Petty celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the 1974 Daytona 500 in his No. 43 STP Buick. (ISC Archives via Getty Images)

Then, like now, it was a turbulent time in America. The Watergate scandal was going full bore, with Richard Nixon in the final six months of his embattled presidency.

For most Americans, though, the big problem was a gasoline shortage that caused high prices and long lines at the pump.

In a symbolic gesture of solidarity, NASCAR shortened the Daytona 500 and other races by 10 percent, making the ’74 Daytona 500 the only Daytona 450 in history. Ten percent shorter race, 10 percent less racing gas used, right?

Still, it was quite the event, although only the second half of the race was televised live, something that would be unfathomable today.

Competition on track was fierce, as there were 59 lead changes among 15 drivers, a record that stood until 2011.

Attrition was brutal, too, with only 17 cars running at the finish, including four on the lead lap.

At the end, Petty was again victorious, finishing ahead of fellow NASCAR Hall of Fame member Cale Yarborough, Ramo Stott and Coo Coo Marlin.

And, oh, by the way, race winner Petty led exactly 74 laps.