SPORTS

I Dream of Daytona (Part 1)

1/27/2007

Even if you don’t know a stock car from a k-car, you’ve heard of the Daytona 500, a.k.a "The Great American Race"—the biggest motorsports event of the year.



Even if you don’t know a stock car from a k-car, you’ve heard of the Daytona 500, a.k.a "The Great American Race"—the biggest motorsports event of the year. Daytona wasn’t always the Super Bowl of racing, and if the brass at CBS hadn’t opted to broadcast all 200 laps, all three and half hours worth (a brazen decision at the time), on Feb. 18, 1979, NASCAR would have remained a regional racing phenomenon, a Southern state touchstone—not the second biggest sport in America after football. Below are 4 of the most harrowing, heartwarming, and hard-charging Daytona 500 moments caught on film.

1979 “The Fight”

Viewers were treated to a hog-wild finish that has become folklore. When the white flag flew, Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough, who had been tucked in behind Donnie for the last twenty laps, shot out inside and the two engaged in a door-to-door bumper car battle. Both drivers refused to yield, and the fourth bang snookered both Oldsmobiles sending them swerving into the retaining wall. Donnie’s brother Bobby Allison drove up, and fisticuffs erupted on the track apron. Richard Petty would win the race but it was the Dukes of Hazzard-esque wreck-turn-brawl that turned audiences onto a whole new kind of Sunday afternoon spectacle.

1986-“Grudge Match”

Dale Earnhardt didn’t like Geoff Bodine because he refused to be intimidated by “the Intimidator.” If Earnhardt got into him, Bodine would bang him right back. So you can imagine what was going through the big E’s head while chomping on Bodine’s bumper with only three circles to go, only to find his throttle-slamming ways had caught up to him, and he was out of gas. In the pits Earnhardt’s blue and yellow Monte-Carlo wouldn’t restart, and so racing team owner Richard Childress sprayed ether into the carburetor in a last ditch effort. Earnhardt roared out of the pits but then one…two…three….KABLAAM, the engine blew.

1988 “Valentine’s day Blood Feud”

By the waning laps of the race, it became clear that someone with the surname Allison was going to take the checkered flag. The only question - father or son, Bobby or Davey? It was a close one, but on turn four of the final lap, daddy pulled away to become the oldest driver (50) to win the Daytona 500. Bobby Allison would never win another race.

1990 “It ain’t the Daytona 499”

By this point in his career Dale Earnhardt had won everything except Daytona, but this time everything was going his way. The No. 3 car, was hugging the groove like a dream and it looked like his day had come. A mile from destiny, Earnhardt’s right rear tire which had run over a piece of metal coming out of turn 2 blew and he fell out of contention. Zmph…zmph…zmph….Derrike Cope, a former baseball catcher, with Terry Labonte and Bill Elliot in tow headed toward victory lane in a monumental upset. It was like Fabian topping Elvis in the charts.

Copyright © Mike Dojc 2007

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