Team Chevrolet Unfurls the Mystery Behind the Iconic Firebird’s Placement on Top of the Daytona 500 Trophy

Published 02/12/2024, 1:31 AM EST

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USA Today via Reuters

Entering the racetracks in 1950, Chevrolet cars continued to dominate NASCAR races. The bowtie brand emerged victorious for the first time, with driver Buck Baker sporting the No. 87 “Black Widow” at the 1957 Premier Series championship. Chevrolet has a historic record of winning the Manufacturer’s Championship an impressive 35 times, and the cars are driven to victory by the likes of Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson on iconic tracks.

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Chevrolet’s exceptional participation in races ranges from Dover to Daytona and beyond. While not just participating, it has also had some iconic wins at the Daytona International Speedway over the years. Speaking of wins, the Daytona 500 trophy carrying an iconic Firebird on top of it is somewhat intriguing. Here’s Team Chevrolet decoding the mystery.

The iconic design of the Daytona 500 trophy

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Winners at the Daytona 500 are awarded the Harley J. Earl Trophy. The trophy is of utmost significance as it is named after the first president of design at General Motors (GM). Earl was also the designer of the iconic Chevrolet Corvette. Unraveling the mystery of its design, Team Chevrolet shared a post from their verified Instagram handle.

The post read, “Ever wonder about the car sitting atop the #daytona500’s Harley J. Earl Trophy? It’s a 24-inch long replica of Firebird I – the jet age-inspired, turbine-powered single-seater designed by the trophy’s namesake, Harley Earl. Harley was the first head of GM Design, the second commissioner to @nascar, and a close friend of NASCAR founder, Bill France Sr. You can see both the trophy and the car at the Chevrolet Daytona Experience Center during @daytona Speedweek.” 

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The president of design is an influential automotive designer who has introduced some innovations, including his iconic Firebird I prototype. This Firebird I prototype was a single-seat, gas-turbine-powered research vehicle inspired by the jet age. Standing out for its futuristic design and cutting-edge technology, it is placed on top of the present-day Daytona 500 trophy, which symbolizes innovation and speed.

Harley J. Earl commissioned a 24-inch-long replica of the Firebird I in 1959 and presented this miniature model to NASCAR, designating it the Harley J. Earl Perpetual Trophy. The then-NASCAR founder, Bill France Sr recognized Earl’s contributions and named him the second commissioner in 1960.

Evolution of the Daytona 500 trophy over the decades

The Harley J. Earl trophy was first awarded to Cotton Owens for winning the 1957 Grand National Race on the Daytona Beach and Road Course. Owens won the full-sized Firebird trophy, with Earl, France, and GM executives in attendance. This wooden trophy initially stood on a simple base approximately three feet tall, weighed over 100 pounds, and featured silver figurines.

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Looming Dark Clouds Over Daytona 500 has NASCAR World Offering Consolations

The official version of the Harley J. Earl Perpetual Trophy is housed at the Daytona International Speedway. It is in the same triangular “tri-oval” shape as the Daytona International Speedway and is removed from display once a year to appear in victory lane with the Daytona 500 winner.

Miniature replicas of the trophy were awarded to individual winners of the Daytona 500 in 1998. These replicas were crafted by sculptor John Lajba and meticulously handmade over six weeks. Each of the miniature replica trophies features the Firebird I automobile and is plated in silver. The Daytona 500 trophy holding the Firebird design is thus of unique significance as it represents Earl’s friendship with NASCAR founder Bill France Sr.

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Watch This Story – The Unmatched Legacy Of Dale Earnhardt At Daytona 500

Stay tuned to find out who gets the Tri-Oval trophy this year.

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Written by:

Mamata Mukherjee

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Mamata Mukherjee is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. Combining her love for writing and motorsports she has created some interesting and in-depth stories on drivers like Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Coming to ES with 3 years of experience in the field of writing, Mamata feels right at home in her role as a NASCAR Journalist.
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Edited by:

Shivali Nathta

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