Mark Thompson sits in his car during qualifying for the 2015 Subway Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway
Robert Laberge/Getty Images

A 66-Year-Old Vietnam Veteran Made History at the 2018 Daytona 500


Advertisement

The 2018 Daytona 500 was notable for a number of reasons. It was the first Daytona 500 race since 1982 where none of the cars were sponsored by beer companies, and it marked the first NASCAR race for the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. It was also Danica Patrick's last NASCAR race, while Bubba Wallace, in his first race as a full-time Cup Series driver, racked up the highest finish for a Black driver in the Daytona 500 with a second-place showing.

Now, the name Mark Thompson probably won't ring any bells for even the most diehard fan, but the Vietnam veteran from Cartersville, Georgia is also part of the 2018 Daytona 500's historic legacy, as he became the oldest driver to ever compete in the Daytona 500. At 66 years old, Thompson put up a qualifying time of 48.267 seconds. He may have been the slowest in the qualifying pack, with his time earning him the dead-last starting position of 40th. But, come actual race day, Thompson was able to make up some ground and turn in a solid performance that showed he could still somewhat hang with the sport's young guns.

WATCH: Mark Thompson's 2018 Daytona 500 Qualifying Run

Driving the No. 66 Ford for MBM Motorsports, Thompson ultimately raced to a 22nd-place finish in that 2018's running of the "Great American Race." He beat out Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, and seven-time Cup Series champ Jimmie Johnson in the process. When asked the highlight of his race at Daytona Beach, Thompson simply said, "The checkered flag."

Advertisement

"Five-hundred miles in a car like that is quite exhausting," Thompson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "There's a reason why the ones out there doing that are 23-, 24-, 25-years-old."

Thompson, who was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, raced in the ARCA Racing Series throughout the '90s and occasionally in the 2000, with 93 starts, four poles, and two wins. Thompson also ran three Cup Series races and four Xfinity Series races.

"This shows that as you get older, you're not really out of the game," Thompson said. "You can still accomplish quite a lot as you get older. It's pretty neat running the Daytona 500 at 66."

When asked if he would continuing racing after his historic run at Daytona International Speedway, Thompson said, "No, I'm ready to retire. It's a long race."

Advertisement

Talk about going out on a high note!

MORE: Danica Patrick Beat 10 NASCAR Champions and Her Ex-Boyfriend at the 2013 Daytona 500

Related Videos