Garry Hill, the official artist...
Garry Hill, the official artist of The Winston, creates the artwork that represents a pivotal moment of each years race. In the 89 The Winston, Rusty Wallace (27) is depicted in the controversial spinout of Darrell Waltrip (17).
David Pearson (21) has already...
David Pearson (21) has already hit the wall and bounced toward the infield while Richard Petty (43) hits the outside wall. Both were coming onto the tri-oval for the 76 Daytona 500 checkered flag.
David Pearson slides for the...
David Pearson slides for the tri-oval grass and keeps his motor running, a fact that will decide the final outcome of the race. Petty also heads for the grass.
With both drivers in the grass,...
With both drivers in the grass, it will be a race to see who can crawl to the finish line first.
At Bristol, Earnhardt closes...
At Bristol, Earnhardt closes in on Terry Labonte for what would be a big finish.
Terry Labonte is now sideways...
Terry Labonte is now sideways and heading for the wall. Did Earnhardt help?
Labonte hits the wall, losing...
Labonte hits the wall, losing the lead and the race.
Dale Earnhardt celebrates...
Dale Earnhardt celebrates in Bristols Victory Lane while the fans howl.
They are the stuff legends are made of. They will remain in our memories forever. The clinical term for it is a flash-bulb memory, which means the image is burned into your mind much like light on film. People can remember when and where they were for special events and happenings with this process.
In racing, the most notable finish in NASCAR history is the Daytona 500 of 1976. The race was not yet televised. There were nowhere near the crowds that now pack Daytona in February, and restrictor plates were not a part of racing. Instead, slingshot passing was the order of the day. NASCAR was still working off of the relatively new Winston-series sponsorship, and the cars carried the original Grand National nameplate.
The facts include the brutal (by todays standards) battles between Richard Petty and David Pearson. In more than 50 previous battles it had come down to one of them winning, with the other placing second. Racing at that time involved more contact than today. Battles were intense and repeated themselves throughout the season.
The other side of the battle was the brand of car. Ford, with its Mercury brand, took on Dodge and Plymouth. There were Chevrolets, but they had not come up to the speed and consistency they enjoy today. And both combatants drove famous cars. Petty, in his usual blue-and-red #43 Dodge, needed no introduction. Pearson drove the most respected Ford product in NASCAR, the #21 Wood Brothers pearl-white and red metalflake car.
With less than 15 laps remaining, it came down to the two winningest drivers in NASCAR history; this race would factor greatly into those stats. They drove the track as each pondered how to beat the other. Pearson, who laid a slingshot pass on Petty on the back straight, came into Turn 3 a little hot and moved up the bank. Petty moved into the lower lane opening. Now they were running neck and neck on the last lap, around the last turn, going for the win.
In Turn 4, Petty edged ever so slightly ahead but didnt completely pass. Coming off four, the duo made the first of what would be numerous contacts until both lost control. Pearson and Petty hit the wall head-on and hard. Spinning wildly, they fought to get their cars back under control but slid onto the grass. It was now a matter of making their way back to the line for the winthey were that far ahead of third place. Petty was actually farther down the trackin the grass and closer to the line. It would be a race to see who could get their damaged car to the line. But Pettys car had stalled upon impact, whereas Pearson kept his running.
As the standing crowd watched, Pearson slowly crept toward the line. Petty kept trying to fire up his Dodge. His crew came off pit road and pushed the car toward the line, ignoring the fact that the race was still running with 185-mph race cars. But Pearson made it to the apron and slowly went under the flag.
Seemingly winning every other race on the circuit and long considered a superspeedway specialist, Pearson had won his first and only Daytona 500. To say this event brought attention to NASCAR was a huge understatement.
In the modern day of NASCAR Winston Cup racing, the all-starstyle The Winston has given race fans more than a few thrills. The event, complete with two-out-of-three-fallstype segments, seems custom-made for creating racing legends. For instance, Darrell Waltrip crossed the line in the first running of The Winston, and his engine blew moments later. That same Waltrip got sideways with Rusty Wallace as Wallace went on to win. Davey Allison and Kyle Petty crossed the line in a cloud of sparks and tire smoke for the inaugural night superspeedway race at Charlotte, home of The Winston. Michael Waltrip scooted by for the win as others fought it out with sheetmetal. Is it any wonder why The Winston is so popular?
In 1999 another legend was born at an already legendary trackBristol Motor Speedway. Located at the border of Virginia and Tennessee, this was a high-profile track well before Bruton Smith added it to his stable. Following the nighttime-racing trend, the annual Bristol under the lights is a complex collection of attractions for stock car fans.
Its a short track, for one, and that means its gonna get physical. But its a high-banked short track, and that means speed for drivers that are very much at home on high-banked venues. The field is usually closely packed and ultra-competitive.
NASCAR had just passed its 50-year mark, and most everyone in the United States had heard of NASCAR, including the many Fortune 500 companies that used racing to market their wares.
On the track, entry lists bulged with a surplus of teams. Bristol was indicative of the fans desire for tickets with more than 150,000 seats towering over the half-mile oval. That number represents more people than were present at the aforementioned 76 Daytona 500. This time, GMs and Fords were raced. NASCAR had become big business and big entertainment. It grew new drivers and teamsand that meant new winners. Where the NASCAR of the 70s had about eight drivers who could or would win on any given Sunday, the turn of the century saw more than a dozen drivers capable of visiting Victory Lane on race day. The increased competition made every move on the track even more critical.
The stars of this legend are Dale Earnhardt and Terry Labonte. Earnhardt had become the Richard Petty of the 80s and 90s with seven championships. Labonte was a major player with regular wins, incredible continuity, and still fresh off his second championship in 1996. This time, however, there was no battle between cars because they both drove Chevys.
But an ongoing battle did exist between the owners of those cars for superiority within the Chevy ranks. Earnhardt drove for former driver Richard Childress, whose black #3 was an icon. Businessman Rick Hen-dricks, who led the most successful and longest running multicar operation in NASCAR, owned Labontes #5. Both drivers were still a factor in Winston Cup racing but not as often as they had been in the past or would have liked. Their reputations and driving styles were indicated by their other names in racing. Earnhardt was the Intimidator, for in-your-face drivingtoday he continues to be known for rough-and-tumble racing. Labonte was the Iceman, cool under pressure and relentless while almost being invisible.
The incident, as these things were now labeled, came at the last lap but started shortly before. After taking the lead, Labonte had been tapped by a slower car on a caution and spun. He had to pit for tires. With the yellow flag creating a five-lap dash to the win, it was classic short-track racing. The others, including Earnhardt, stayed out on the track. Labonte had to dig in to regain his lead. In only a few laps, Labonte caught up to Earnhardt, ready to challenge. The two cars traded paint for most of those five laps, and the battle naturally escalated. Each driver tried to rattle the cage of the other by bumping, rubbing, and otherwise rooting him out of the groove to pass or defend a position. After the field got the white flag, both made it safely trough Turns 1 and 2.
On the back straight, Labonte spun around and lost both the lead and the race as Earnhardt drove by for the win. The crowd howled, but were they yelling for or against Earnhardt? This incident has been replayed across the nation, further burning it into the minds of viewers.
At the high level of NASCAR, drivers comments are closely guarded for fear of offending any corporate relationships. No company wants to be associated with a loose cannon. So the words from any incident are as carefully prepared as the cars. In ARCA racing, that isnt always the case. ARCA drivers are not under the same pressures, so they tend to speak more freely on such events.
At a nationally televised ARCA race at Pocono, the guy to watch was an up-and-coming Jeff Gordon type, Ryan Newman. Chosen by the Penske organization for his open wheel prowess, he signed to run only a few ARCA races as training for possible Winston Cup duty down the line. Pocono was to be his second such race after earning the outside front-row starting spot at his first race, at Michigan International Speedway. Young Newman did quite well at Michigan, his first stock car ride.
Bob Strait couldnt have been more opposite. As an ARCA regular, he still works a regular job and runs the full ARCA Bondo Mar-Hyde Super Car Series full time with two teams. One team prepares his short-track Chevys while another, fully independent of the short-track team, prepares speedway Fords. Together they made a successful bid for the 2000 title. Strait led the points and had been most of the season going into the Pocono race. Strait was a veteran of hundreds of races in stock cars with plenty of wins.
The words of each driver are the story here. Newman said, I think it was three laps from the end when Bob Strait and I got together
there was a couple times when I got underneath Bob. He let me know that he didnt want me to get by him right away. I got underneath him there in Turn 1, got over the bumps, and the car pushed up. At the same time, he had been moving down. I didnt know if he was trying different lines or trying to pinch me down, but at the same time I got into his left-rear quarter-panel and got into him just hard enough to spin him around. It cost him the win, obviously.
I know that we had a strong enough car that we could have given him a good run the next three laps to the checkered flag.
Strait said, Im running the high line through one and two. My car had a little bit of a push there. That seemed to be the place he could catch me but couldnt pass me. The bottom line is he just run into me coming off of Turn 1 there. Thats the end of the story. I mean, it was a total surprise to me that he just flat ran into me like that.
The facts are that the resulting spin didnt end up in a crash. Strait kept it off the wall and received only a small dent on his quarter-panel. Strait lost the points lead and faced an uphill battle to regain it. Newman won the race and ran only a few more ARCA races that year.