NASCAR is one of the most popular sports in the US, with millions of fans tuning in to watch the sport’s biggest events, such as the Daytona 500 and the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race.
Although stock car racing existed in the States since the Prohibition Era, it’s not until 1948 that NASCAR was officially founded. There have been many incredible moments in the history of NASCAR and today we’re going to take a look at some of the most memorable, starting with Richard Petty’s win at Daytona 500 in 1979.
Daytona 500 1979
The first NASCAR race to be broadcast live in its entirety, Daytona 500 1979 is memorable for several reasons. First it saw Richard Petty winning his sixth Daytona 500. However, it’s what happened in the final moments of the race that makes it stick in most peoples’ memories.
The two drivers in the lead heading into the final part of the race were Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison. During the final lap, it looked certain that it was going to be one of the two who would win the race. However as they approached the backstretch, their cars made contact several times and ultimately they both crashed into the outside wall. This allowed Richard Petty to easily overtake them and ultimately win the race.
After the race, Yarborough and Allison got into a heated discussion that soon became physical. This just added to the drama of the event and played a big part in putting NASCAR on the map as one of the major spectator sports in the US.
The first Daytona 500 winner controversy
The very first Daytona 500 race back in 1959 caused a lot of controversy at the time. It was an incredibly exciting race, with Lee Petty and Johnny Beauchamp the two leading racers heading into the last lap. As they approached the finish line, they were neck and neck but to complicate matters further there was a lapped car that was level on the outside of both of their cars as they crossed it.
Beauchamp was declared the winner on the day but when officials later reviewed pictures and videos from the event, it became clear that Lee Petty had actually won and 3 days later, he was officially declared the winner of the first Daytona 500.
Rusty Wallace defeats Darrell Waltrip in 1989 All-Star Race
Although the All-Star Race doesn’t accumulate any points for the winner, it’s still highly competitive, in no small part due to the huge prize money on offer. The prize for the 89 event was $200,000 and Darrel Waltrip and Rusty Wallace as the two leading racers going into the final part of the race.
Wallace was just behind Waltrip when he drove into the back of his car and caused it to spin out of control, allowing him to go on and win the race. Waltrip was irate about this and famously said after the event “I hope he chokes on that $200,000.”
Dale Earnhardt wins Daytona 500
Heading into 1998’s Daytona 500 race, Dale Earnhardt had long been a fan favorite with NASCAR enthusiasts and although he’d enjoyed great success in the sport, winning multiple series championships, he’d never managed to win the Daytona 500.
That was all about to change however, with him winning what was ultimately a fairly uneventful race in comfortable fashion. He led the pack for much of the race, including the final 61 laps and after the race, he famously threw a stuffed monkey across the press room to symbolize the relief at finally having won the title that had eluded him for decades.
2005 Coca Cola 600
Although the Coca Cola 600 isn’t considered by many to be as prestigious as some other famous NASCAR events, the 2005 edition was an extremely memorable one. This is in no small part due to having one of the closest finishes in NASCAR history. NASCAR fans across the world, like on PowerPlay Canada, were certainly on the edge of their seats for this.
The first 100 laps of the 2005 Coca Cola 600 were fairly uneventful but the final 100 would be totally different. There were multiple cautions that shook up the race and allowed drivers to reposition. Two of the biggest names in the race – Dale Earnhardt and Michael Waltrip, were also taken out due to a heavy collision.
This led to an extremely exciting finish, with Bobby Labonte looking sure to win heading towards the finish line but Jimmie Jonson seemingly came out of nowhere and overtook him on the final turn, winning the race by just 27/1000ths of a second.