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Greatest NASCAR moments: Nos. 20-11

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Jorge Andres Mondaca

Jorge Andres Mondaca is the senior NASCAR editor for FOXSports.com.

 
   
 
As we approach the running of the 50th Daytona 500 on February 17, and the start of NASCAR's 60th anniversary season, the NASCAR on FOX crew wanted to take a step back and relive some of the greatest moments in the history of the sport. With the help of Best Damn Sports Show Period, we have compiled the 50 greatest moments in NASCAR history. Also, make sure to check out the first two installments in the series which details moments 50-41, moments 40-31 and moments 30-21.

The final masterpiece

Moment Number 20: Dale Earnhardt records his final career victory at Talladega
Date: October 15, 2000
Location: Talladega Superspeedway. Talladega, Ala.

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What happened: Nobody inside Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 15, 2000, knew they were watching the final masterpiece from their hero. But it wouldn't have mattered if they did, they already knew they were witnessing history. Although Earnhardt was strong at Talladega on that Sunday, The Man in Black found himself mired in 17th place with six laps remaining at the 2.66-mile track. What transpired in the next few circuits could only be properly expressed by how the fans in the stands reacted: Bonkers. Beginning on Lap 183 of 188, The Intimidator started slicing through the front of the field any way possible — high side, low side, on the grass and straight down the middle. He passed renowned drivers like Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, his son Dale Earnhardt Jr. and then teammate Mike Skinner to get to the front of the pack seconds after the white flag waved. With the help of Kenny Wallace, who gave him some pushes along the way to the front, Earnhardt retained the top spot relatively unchallenged on that final lap to win the Winston 500 event by 0.119 seconds over Wallace. Joe Nemechek, Jeff Gordon and Terry Labonte made up the remainder of the top five that day. Mike Joy, NASCAR on FOX race announcer: I guess this should read Dale Earnhardt AND Kenny Wallace's victory, because if an ace ever had a loyal wingman if was Kenny for Dale. That win was as much Wallace's as Earnhardt's, because neither driver could have made it to the front alone.

'It's going to be a drag race all the way back to the start/finish line'

Moment Number 19: Kevin Harvick wins 2007 Daytona 500 by .02 seconds over Mark Martin
Date: February 18, 2007
Location: Daytona International Speedway. Daytona Beach, Fla. What happened: Almost a year to the date that the epic 2007 Daytona 500 took place, people continue to ask themselves one question: Where did Kevin Harvick come from? As the field came down for the final restart of the event under green/white/checkered conditions, it was then-race leader Mark Martin who looked to be heading towards a fairy tale finish as he appeared to be closing in on his first victory in 23 career Daytona 500 starts. Things were looking to be going to plan from the time Martin took the green flag to when he accepted the white flag, as he blocked second-place Kyle Busch from making any last gasp moves to take over the lead. But just when it looked like Martin defended his last attack, Kevin Harvick charged up the outside as the field entered Turn 3. Side-by-side, Harvick edged ahead of Martin as carnage started taking place behind them. Unlike past precedents, NASCAR decides against throwing out a caution, allowing Harvick and Martin to drag race down to the finish, where the driver of the No. 29 Shell Chevrolet won by a margin of 0.020 seconds. With the triumph, Harvick created a new record for lowest starting position for a race winner (34th) and for fewest laps led by a race winner (four total out of 202). Perhaps just as spectacular as the victory was the fireworks behind the first- and second-place drivers. Cars were wrecking and smashing into one another. And for one driver, the contact actually flipped his car but did so with enough momentum that he slid past the start/finish line. Mike Joy, NASCAR on FOX race announcer: This one is ranked too low, and as years go by will probably move to the top 10. It is certainly one of the top Daytona 500 finishes of all time. And yes, letting the leaders race to the flag was the right call. Dick Berggren, NASCAR on FOX pit reporter: I was on the pit wagon beside Ryan Pemberton watching his driver Mark Martin lose by inches! None of us could believe what was happening. Who wouldn't want Mark to win the Daytona 500? Chris Myers, NASCAR on FOX Prerace host: Kevin Harvick's controversial .02 second win over veteran Mark Martin in 2007. Now that was excitement! Krista Voda, NASCAR on FOX pit reporter: The last lap in this one was unbelievable — from (Kevin) Harvick and (Mark) Martin battling, to Clint Bowyer flipping across the line on fire. What a finish! Darrell Waltrip, NASCAR on FOX race analyst: Last year's Daytona 500 can be summed up like this: look at the cars coming to get the green and then look at the cars coming to get the checkered. Need I say more?

The advent of the "Polish Victory Lap"

Moment Number 18: Alan Kulwicki scores first career win
Date: November 6, 1988 Location: Phoenix International Raceway. Avondale, AZ. What happened: NASCAR fans love the story of the underdog, and perhaps the last true "underdog" of the sport was Alan Kulwicki. One of the last driver/owners to go through the sport, Kulwicki earned 1987 Rookie of the Year honors and slowly built a following for his dedication to the sport. However, it wasn't until late 1988 that he would break through in the win column. Competing in the inaugural Checker 500, Kulwicki took advantage of an engine failure that took out race leader Ricky Rudd, who had led 183 laps on the day with just under 20 laps remaining. Lead in hand, Kulwicki ran away with the victory that night, finishing the race 18.5-seconds ahead of second place Terry Labonte. As a sign of respect to his fans, the driver of the No. 7 Zerex machine celebrated his victory by doing a reverse victory lap, the "Polish victory lap," so that way he could put his window net down and thank the fans. Mike Joy, NASCAR on FOX race announcer: What Alan Kulwicki accomplished as an owner/driver made several good "independent" drivers hang up their helmets. I've never known anyone so focused, and so driven. Alan wanted his first win to be memorable, and he deserves to be in this top dozen of highlights.

'I won the Daytona 500!'

Moment Number 17: Darrell Waltrip wins after 17 tries — does the Ickey Shuffle
Date: February 19, 1989 Location: Daytona International Speedway. Daytona Beach, Fla. What happened: Along with respecting the little guy who is challenging the giants of the sport, NASCAR fans are also very respecting when they see a driver finally overcome his demons to conquer a particular track. For Darrell Waltrip, that demon was Daytona. Waltrip, once a villain who was capturing more and more fan appeal by the late '80s, secured his following in the 1989 Daytona 500 by finally winning the Great American Race on his 17th try driving car No. 17 for Rick Hendrick. Using fuel mileage to his advantage, DW went a seemingly endless 53 laps on just one tank of gas at Daytona International Speedway. By stretching his fuel consumption, Waltrip was able to build a 7.64-second advantage over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Ken Schrader, who led a race high 114 of 200 laps but finished second. Finally in Victory Lane at Daytona, a track he had visited 32 times in the past without a similar result, Waltrip's emotions were on display for the world to see, screaming out in Victory Lane "I won the Daytona 500!" and performing the Ickey Shuffle dance -- the endzone dance made famous by Bengals fullback Elbert "Ickey" Woods in the late 80s. Mike Joy, NASCAR on FOX race announcer: 17th try to win the race. Car #17, pit stall #17, race day: February 17th. Heck, he probably even finished the race with 17 ounces of fuel left in the tank! Chris Myers, NASCAR on FOX Prerace host: Darrell Waltrip winning after 17 years! The raw emotion and enthusiasm doing that "Ickey Shuffle" or something like it in his Tide gear, was one of the most genuine moments I've ever seen in sports.

Taking turns

Moment Number 16: 75 lead changes in one race
Date: May 6, 1984
Location: Talladega Superspeedway. Talladega, Ala. What happened: With the slingshot pass working in full effect, the May 6, 1984 Talladega race will surely be remembered as one of the most competitive, if not most thrilling, in history. Starting off with polesitter Bill Elliott, who qualified with a top speed of 202.692 mph, the race saw a whopping 75 lead changes among 13 different drivers. Although Benny Parsons led the most laps on the day, 56 total, it was Cale Yarborough who grabbed the lead from Harry Gant on the final lap to win the Winston 500.

Presidential moment

Moment Number 15: Richard Petty's 200th win in front of President Ronald Reagan
Date: July 4, 1984
Location: Daytona International Speedway. Daytona Beach, Fla.
Let your voice be heard
What happened: Entering the twilight of his illustrious career, Richard Petty had one major milestone within his grasp in 1984: 200 victories. With a victory at Dover International Speedway, The King set the stage for a "made for TV" moment at Daytona International Speedway that summer. With the entire country celebrating Independence Day, and President Ronald Regan in attendance, the driver of the No. 43 STP Pontiac outlasted rivals Harry Gant and Cale Yarborough to record his 200th and final Cup Series victory. Mike Joy, NASCAR on FOX race announcer: Richard's Pontiac had really not been that competitive in '84, though he managed a win at Dover one month earlier. But the King could not be denied at Daytona. And when Doug Heveron flipped in Turn 1, it made for a hard-knuckled sprint to the flag for Petty and Cale Yarborough.

Family affair

Moment Number 14: Bobby Allison defeats his son Davey to become the oldest driver to win Daytona 500
Date: February 14, 1988
Location: Daytona International Speedway. Daytona Beach, Fla. What happened: While the 1988 Daytona 500 had more than its share of historical significance, beginning with the fact that this was the first restrictor-plate race in history, nothing trumps the fact that the world got to witness a thrilling father-son battle to decide the winner of the event. Bobby Allison, a former two-time winner of the Great American Race, was in strong contention to win his third in 1988 after driving his No. 12 Miller High Life Buick for the Stavola Brothers for a race total of 70 laps on the lead that afternoon. But if he was to hold on to the victory, he would have to hold off his son Davey who was charging strong towards the end of the event. Davey made his move, trying to make the pass in Turns 3 and 4 late in the event, but it was to no avail as Bobby held off all comers to win the event by two car lengths over his son and third-place finisher Phil Parsons. To date, this remains the last father-son 1-2 finish in NASCAR history.

The Dale and Dale show

Moment Number 13: Dale Jarrett wins over Dale Earnhardt, while Jarrett's father, Ned, commentates the race from the booth
Date: February 14, 1993 Location: Daytona International Speedway. Daytona Beach, Fla. For each disappointment Dale Earnhardt faced at the Daytona 500, there was always a great back story that made it okay to celebrate the other person's victory and keep cheering for The Man in Black's breakthrough. In 1993, that back story involved three people. With his father Ned in the television booth, and his mother Martha sitting in her van so as to keep her emotions in check, Dale Jarrett was able to charge forward and take over the lead of the Great American race on the final lap from Dale Earnhardt, who had led 107 laps on the day. "Exactly like you told me all along Dad, thanks for everything, I appreciate it," Jarrett told his father, who at the time was a broadcaster for CBS. "This is a great day ... You came so close in 1963 when you ran out of fuel, I thought we'd get this one for the whole family." Although he led just eight laps total, the fifth fewest total for a Daytona 500 winner to date, he was able to win his first race for Joe Gibbs Racing, and second of his career, by a margin of 0.16-seconds over Earnhardt and Geoffrey Bodine. Rounding out the top five on the day was Hut Stricklin and rookie Jeff Gordon, who led the first two laps of what is still is an illustrious career. Mike Joy, NASCAR on FOX race announcer: I was a pit reporter on that telecast, and as the cars reached turn two on the final lap, producer Bob Stenner hit the "all call" key and told us "Everybody lay out! Ned ... call your boy home." The next minute of live television was priceless, as the "Dale and Dale show" played out to the delight of one of racing's great families. Steve Byrnes, NASCAR on FOX and SPEED host and reporter: Dale Jarrett's 1993 win with his dad, Ned in the CBS broadcast booth calling the race. I worked with Ned Jarrett from 1985 to 1990, and knew intimately about the struggles Dale had endured. It was also a race Ned had never won.

Kulwicki takes the title by 10 points

Moment Number 12: Alan Kulwicki wins enough points to win claim title
Date: November 15, 1992
Location: Atlanta Motor Speedway. Hampton, Ga.
What happened: Looking for drama? Find a copy of the 1992 Hooters 500. Following a brutal 28-race season, the championship came down to one race as Davey Allison held a tenuous 30 point lead over Alan Kulwicki and 40 point advantage over Bill Elliott. But as the day would prove, that's not enough for a championship. Needing a fifth-place finish or better, Allison battled through early troubles and was actually in position to do so until he got tangled up in an Ernie Irvan crash. While Allison returned, he would finish the event in 27th place, 43 laps behind the pace. As a result, the championship door was wide open for both Kulwicki and Elliott, both of whom had been fighting throughout the day for the lead of the race. Elliott managed to get out front late, and stayed there for 15 of 16 of the final circuits en route to the championship. However, Kulwicki finished second, and by virtue of leading the most laps on the day — a mere 1 more than Elliot (103-102) — he was able to claim the championship by 10 points courtesy of the five bonus points given to the driver that leads the most laps in a race. Had Elliott led the most laps, the championship would have gone to him courtesy of the first tiebreaker: most wins in a season. Along with the title implications, the race held another distinction that became more significant a few years later. On that very day, Richard Petty completed the final race of his historic career while Jeff Gordon competed in his first ever on the Cup circuit. Mike Joy, NASCAR on FOX race announcer: Throughout the entire race, Alan kept the points in his head ... he knew where he had to finish, where Davey Allison and Bill Elliott were at all times, and how many laps he had to lead. All the while driving the race car, and calling for adjustments on pit stops. Alan may have been NASCAR's best, and was certainly its last, one-man band.

Beating and banging until the end

Moment Number 11: Ricky Craven holds off Kurt Busch to win by .002 seconds
Date: March 16, 2003
Location: Darlington Raceway. Darlington, S.C. What happened: "How close can you get it?" That was the question asked by NASCAR on FOX announcer Mike Joy after calling the side-by-side duel between Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch at Darlington Raceway on March 16, 2003. The answer? 0.002 seconds. Since taking the lead on lap 270 of 293, Busch worked well out front blocking any and all challenges for the lead ... until Craven found his way right next to him with three laps to go. Although Craven could not take the lead when they went side-by-side, he showed he was not scared to knock fenders as the two rammed into each other going into Turn 1. That moment proved to be prophetic as the two once again collided on the final lap of the race when Busch started dropping down on Craven coming off Turn 4. The two continued beating and banging up until the checkered flag, where Craven was able to stick his Pontiac's nose in front for the closest victory in NASCAR history. Don't forget to tune in this Sunday, Feb. 17, at 2 p.m. ET for the running of the 50th Daytona 500 on FOX.

Moments 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-1

Tagged: Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ricky Rudd, Dale Jarrett, Bill Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Bobby Labonte, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin, Ken Schrader, Kenny Wallace, Mike Skinner, Joe Nemechek

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