CountDown to daytona: 51

January 04, 2013, Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service,

There are 51 days left before the Feb. 24, 2013 Daytona 500; hence, today’s number is: 51.

The number of starts for Ralph Earnhardt in what is now the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Earnhardt never won a race at NASCAR’s highest level, but his passion for racing launched the career of his son, seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt Sr. The NASCAR Sportsman champion in 1956, Earnhardt made his Cup debut that same year in the Buddy Shuman 250 at Hickory Speedway, where Earnhardt won the pole and finished second to Speedy Thompson in the race. Earnhardt died of a heart attack in 1973, at age 45.