Countdown to Daytona: Why Richard Petty didn’t run the seventh running of the 500

OK folks, we have officially turned the corner and are on the white-flag lap.

Just seven days remain until the 59th running of the Daytona 500, which takes place Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. ET on FOX. And we think the timing is fit for a king. Or more correctly, fit for The King.

The No. 7 holds a special significance for Richard Petty, a/k/a “The King,” as he is one of only three drivers to win seven championships In what today is known as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The other two, of course, are the late Dale Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson.

And Petty is the only driver to win the Daytona 500 seven times. His closest competitor is Cale Yarborough, a four-time winner of the Great American Race.

Petty won the Daytona 500 in 1964, ’66, ’71, ’73, ’74, ’79 and ’81. He won his first three 500s in Plymouths, the next two in Dodges and then one each in an Oldsmobile and a Buick.

Last but not least, a little bit of No. 7 Daytona trivia for you: While Petty won the 500 in 1964 and ’66, he did not win the seventh running of the Daytona 500 in 1965.

Why not? Because he didn’t enter the race. At the start of the 1965 season, the top Chrysler teams boycotted NASCAR in a dispute over engine rules with NASCAR founder Big Bill France.

As a result, there were just two Plymouths and three Dodges entered in the 1965 Daytona 500, which saw Fred Lorenzen win and Fords and Mercurys take the top 11 spots.

Interestingly, the seventh running of the Daytona 500 was the second shortest ever, with Lorenzen getting the victory after rain halted the race after just 133 laps.