Memorable Moments from Daytona 500

One of the biggest events in car racing, the Daytona 500 or “The Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing” has produced memorable moments for fans through the years – moments that have defined the sport and popularized it all over the world. Everything from photo finishes, huge underdog wins and even fights have played out at the Great American Race Track, making it one of the most legendary events in automobile racing.

As the 2014 race comes to an end, let us take a look at some of the most memorable moments in the competition’s legendary history.

The Fight Seen Around the World:

In 1979, the race was a closely contested fight to the finish between Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough. On the last lap, Yarborough drove low to pass and was blocked by Allison. Their fenders collided and the cars crashed on turn three. Richard Petty went on to win the race. However the attention was not on the winner but on the two runners up who got into an all-out brawl and that too on national television. (Incidentally, this was the first Daytona 500 to be broadcasted live)

Donnie was joined by his brother Bobby as the three racers brawled on the track. No amount of advertisement could have helped the sport as much as this incident and it is considered to be the spark that ignited a nationwide obsession with this event. Live action indeed.


Battle to the Finish:

The 1976 Daytona 500 had a monumental fight to the finish. Richard Petty was in the lead in the last lap with David Pearson close on his tail. Pearson used a remarkable slingshot move to overtake Petty on turn three, but didn’t quite clear him. The two cars collided, crashed and came to a stop, mere feet away from the finish line. It truly was a battle to the finish and the audience got a sense of two boxers trying to beat the count as they tried to get up. Pearson was able to restart his engine and wobbled across the finish line as Petty stared on in despair. This truly was one of the most dramatic finishes to a Daytona 500 race.

Dale Earnhardt Sr. Finally Wins:

After twenty years of near misses, the legendary Dale Earnhardt finally won the 1998 race. The legendary seven-time Cup champion had been so close over the years to win the race but had always lost out due to some unfortunate event, leading to the infamous Earnhardt curse. “The Intimidator” led for much of the race and fans waited with baited breath for the unfortunate incident that would derail his title again.

The accident did occur in the last lap, but this time it took place behind him as Earnhardt drove to the most memorable win in Daytona 500 history. The most beautiful moment of the day, however, was his slow drive up the pit road where every crew member from every team ran out to congratulate him. It truly was one of the greatest Daytona 500, if not NASCAR moment, in history.

Death of a Legend:

This was definitely not a “great” moment, but was one of the most memorable and momentous moments in NASCAR history. The 2001 race was going well for Dale Earnhardt even though he was in third place. The first two spots were occupied by two of his cars, one of which was being driven by his son Dale Jr.  So even if he did not win, it wasn’t going to be a bad result overall.

Then on the final lap of the race, the unthinkable happened. One of the greatest NASCAR drivers of all time died on the tracks after a freak accident involving Sterling Marlin.

The death of Dale Earnhardt had a profound impact on the sport. It brought NASCAR racing into the international spotlight like never before and the governing body of the sport introduced significant safety changes following the crash. These changes have helped save the lives of numerous other drivers involved in similar incidents, making sure no precious life like Earnhardt gets lost again.

A Win for Dad:

The 2004 Daytona 500 saw one of the most emotional victories in the history of the event. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was leading in the final laps of the race, where his legendary father had won in 1998 and lost his life in 2000. As the final few laps raced by, almost everybody was inadvertently rooting for Dale Jr. He drove like a man possessed and simply could not be passed in the last twenty or so laps. As the race raced (pun intended) towards its momentous conclusion, everyone in the commentary box, grandstands and those watching at home were rooting for Junior. When he crossed the finish line in the last lap, everybody knew that this was a special, special moment in NASCAR history.

Just like any other sport, Daytona 500 has seen its ups and downs. This Daytona International Speedway has seen legends fall and heroes rise from the ashes. Do you remember any other memorable moments from Daytona 500. Share them with us.

Image courtesy: By US Army [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Ivy Oscar is a professional writer and blogger from Magnolia, Delaware. She likes to write about music, sports, celebrities and all the good things in life.
Categories: Sports

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