10 Greatest Moments in NASCAR History
Updated December 5, 2014
With only professional football having more television viewers, NASCAR is one of the most viewed professional sports in the United States and holds 17 of the top 20 spots for the most fans to attend a single-day event in the world. Throughout NASCAR’s 61 year history, there have been many memorable moments for fans. If you ask any fan what they think are some of the greatest moments in the sport, you are sure to hear more than one from the following 10 Greatest Moments in NASCAR History.
The Daytona 500 Puts NASCAR on the Map – On February 18, 1979, a new agreement between NASCAR and CBS provided televised coverage of the entire Daytona 500 for the first time. Running in 1st and 2nd place, Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison wreck each other on the last lap, giving Richard Petty his 6th Daytona 500 win. Although this proved to be an exciting ending to the first flag-to-flag race coverage, fans received much more than a thrilling finish. As Petty crossed the finish line, the cameras caught Yarborough and the Allison brothers in a heated argument on the infield grass between turns three and four that escalated to fist-fighting. Most NASCAR fans consider this event to be the turning point for stock-car racing, putting it on the map to becoming a mainstream sport.
The Intimidator Wins the Daytona 500 – In 1998, after almost two decades of almost-wins, Dale Earnhardt finally took the checkered flag at the Great American Race. Three years after the most important win of his career, the same track claimed the life of The Intimidator, making this win one that the fans will look upon as a milestone in NASCAR.
The King is Born – In 1967, a King was established in NASCAR. With 48 starts that season, Richard Petty won 27 races, a record that certainly will never be broken. In his 27 wins, 10 of them were consecutive, with the 10th one coming during the Wilkes 400 in North Wilkesboro, NC. In the same year, Petty earned $130,275, becoming the first Cup champion to earn six figures.
Richard Petty’s 200th Career Win – It wasn’t the Daytona 500, but it was at Daytona that the King took the checkered flag in the 1984 Firecracker 400 to claim the 200th – and final – win of his career. It was an exciting finish with Petty beating Cale Yarborough to the finish line by inches in front of Ronald Reagan, the first US President to attend a NASCAR event.
The Brickyard 400 – It wasn’t until 1994 that NASCAR finally made its debut at racing’s most sacred track – the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In the inaugural Brickyard 400, hometown hero Jeff Gordon took the lead in the final laps, winning the race.
Pass in the Grass – It’s the 1987 Winston All-Star Race that brings NASCAR fans one of the most legendary moments in the sport. Dale Earnhardt and Bill Elliott battled lap after lap of the race, bringing about Earnhardt’s celebrated “Pass in the Grass.” Earnhardt won the race, and the typically level-headed Bill Elliott expressed his disapproval by slamming into Earnhardt’s number 3 car during the cool down laps. It was during this race that the Intimidator was born. Jimmie Johnson Wins 4th Consecutive Cup Championship — Love him or hate him, Jimmie Johnson’s history-making 4th consecutive title win is impressive. Over the past 8 years, Johnson has accumulated 47 wins and 4 titles, making him the most dominant driver of this decade. More than that, Johnson has joined only three other drivers in winning more than three Cup titles – Richard Petty (7), Dale Earnhardt (7), and Jeff Gordon (4).
Battle to the End – The 1976 Daytona 500 was a battle to the finish, and proved to be an incredible moment in one of NASCAR’s greatest rivalries. Richard Petty and David Pearson had battled for the lead all day. Coming off the final turn of the final lap, Pearson drifted high and Petty went low. The cars touched and both began to spin, coming to rest in the infield grass less than 100 yards from the finish line. Petty’s car stalls, and Pearson managed to make it across the finish line at 25 mph in his damaged car for what would be his only Daytona 500 win.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Wins the Pepsi 400 – In the first race back since the death of his father, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. wins at Daytona, the same track that claimed the Intimidator’s life five months earlier. In one of the most memorable post-race celebrations in NASCAR history, Dale Jr. stopped his car on the infield grass and climbed onto the roof to celebrate with the grandstand crowd.
Darrel Waltrip Wins Daytona – Ending decades of futility, Darrel Waltrip finally won the Daytona 500. Waltrip’s celebration in Victory Lane is still one of the greatest celebration moments in the history of the sport. Waltrip did the Ickey Shuffle and proclaimed “I won the Daytona 500! I won the Daytona 500! Thank God!”
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