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History of NASCAR Cup races on Presidents’ Day

Photo by Dominic Aragon/TRE

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Over the course of NASCAR’s history, the Daytona 500 has raced on Presidents’ Day weekend, but what about Cup Series races on the actual federal holiday?

Throughout the Cup Series’ 74-year history, five Cup Series races have been run on Presidents’ Day — all coming at the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway.

The first race held on the holiday was the first Daytona 500 in 1959. The race saw Lee Petty named the eventual winner of the inaugural Great American Race.

The most recent race held on Presidents’ Day was the 2020 Daytona 500. The race originally took the green flag the day before, but inclement weather pushed the race to the next day.

Photo by Erick Messer/TRE

Denny Hamlin claimed his third victory in the Daytona 500 after a last-lap crash sent leader Ryan Newman to the hospital.

Presidents’ Day was signed into law by U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1879, originally applying to just Washington D.C. The holiday was expanded to a nationwide celebration in 1885.

The federal holiday was originally scheduled on February 22 — U.S. President George Washington’s birthday. After an executive order from President Richard Nixon, Since 1971, the holiday has been celebrated on the third Monday in February.

Four U.S. Presidents have their birthday fall in the month of February — George Washington, William Henry Harrison, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan — but none of their birthdays coincide with the holiday.

1959 Daytona 500 Lee Petty
1963 Daytona 500 Qualifier Junior Johnson
1963 Daytona 500 Qualifier Johnny Rutherford
1970 Daytona 500 Pete Hamilton
2020 Daytona 500 Denny Hamlin


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