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Greatest NASCAR moments: Nos. 50-41

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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.

Edwards flips out

Moment Number 50: Carl Edwards defeats Jimmie Johnson by 0.028 seconds
Date: March 20, 2005
Location: Atlanta Motor Speedway. Hampton, Ga.

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What happened: Although he was not technically a rookie, since he ran the final 13 races for Roush Racing in 2004, Carl Edwards' official coming out party took place at the 2005 Golden Corral 500. Starting from fourth on the grid, Edwards had to watch most of the race from behind as Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson combined to lead 307 of 325 laps that day. However, on the final lap of the race, Edwards used a daring move coming off Turn 4 to get side-by-side with Johnson and edged him out by a margin of 0.028 seconds at the stripe — the 11th-closest finish in Cup history to date. After the thrilling victory, Edwards stopped his car on the frontstretch and did a celebratory back flip for the fans, a move which has become his trademark ever since. The Cup victory was his second of the weekend at Atlanta, as Edwards became the first driver in history to earn his first Busch Series (now Nationwide Series) and first Cup wins on the same weekend. NASCAR on FOX race analyst Mike Joy: As years pass, folks who saw this finish will rank it higher ... it was a lap and a half of high speed, high stakes poker, and neither driver blinked. Being Edwards first Cup win, and coming just a day after his first Busch win, made it all that much sweeter.

Mr. September is born

Moment Number 49: 51-year-old Harry Gant wins fourth consecutive race
Date: September 22, 1991
Location: Martinsville Speedway. Martinsville, Va.
What happened: Baseball has Mr. October, Reggie Jackson, but in 1991, NASCAR found his equal — Mr. September, Harry Gant. Gant, the driver of the No. 33 Skoal Bandit Oldsmobile, started his hot streak on September 1, as he led 152 laps on his way to winning at Darlington. In the following weeks he would go on to win at Richmond and Dover before taking his streak to Martinsville. Although the record books show he led almost half the race (226 of 500 laps), it was not lacking in drama. Gant was involved in a late-race incident that could have ruined his streak. However, he overcame the obstacle and captured his fourth consecutive Cup victory at the age of 51. NASCAR on FOX race analyst Mike Joy: Mr. September narrowly missed winning again the following week at North Wilkesboro. Handsome Harry had skill, a great smoothness behind the wheel, and a patiently aggressive driving style. And oh by the way, he also had the first negative-cambered rear end setup in Winston Cup racing.

Shrub makes history

Moment Number 48: Kyle Busch's first win makes him youngest-ever winner of a Cup race
Date: September 4, 2005
Location: California Speedway. Fontana, Calif.
What happened: Competing in his rookie season in the Sprint Cup season, fans and pundits alike could see that Kyle Busch was as talented behind the wheel as his brother, Kurt, who won the Cup championship the year before. But few expected the younger Busch could be that good at such a young age. At the precise age of 20 years, 4 months and 2 days, "Shrub" used pit strategy to get to the front of the field and then held off Greg Biffle during a green-white-checkered finish to capture his first career Cup Series victory. Busch would go on to win another race during his rookie season and finish 20th in the championship.

Ladies day at Daytona

Moment Number 47: Janet Guthrie is the first woman to compete in the Daytona 500
Date: February 20, 1977
Location: Daytona International Speedway. Daytona Beach, Fla.
What happened: To call Janet Guthrie a trailblazer would be an understatement, as her name is littered throughout racing history books. After testing an Indy car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Rolla Vollstedt in 1976, Guthrie became the first woman to compete in a Cup superspeedway stock car race by taking part in the World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (now Lowe's Motor Speedway). She would go on to race four more times that year, including the Daytona summer race, before returning in 1977 for Speedweeks.
Let your voice be heard
Although she started the 1977 Daytona 500 in 39th place, she kept out of trouble and overcame late engine troubles to finish 12th overall. While many considered her a publicity ploy before the race, she proved to many she knew how to drive. Later in 1977, Guthrie would qualify for the Indianapolis 500, becoming the first woman to race there as well. NASCAR on FOX race analyst Mike Joy: It wasn't as momentous as Guthrie's breakthrough Indy 500 start, and the physicist from New York was never one of stock car racing's "good old boys." But she was serious about her racing, and gave a good account of herself on the track, aided by veteran car owner Ralph Moody.

Montoya breaks through

Moment Number 46: Juan Pablo Montoya wins his first Cup Series race
Date: June 24, 2007
Location: Infineon Raceway. Sonoma, Calif.
What happened: Juan Pablo Montoya was already a recognized auto racing star before he came to NASCAR full time in 2007, but his exploits in the 2007 Toyota/Save Mart 350 cements his place among the greats. Montoya, a former Indianapolis 500 and Formula One winner, announced his defection from the open-wheel ranks in August of 2006 with much fanfare. But there was a fair share of disbelief, as some questioned whether he could make the transition to the bulkier cars that were harder to control. But a victory in the Busch Series (now Nationwide Series) race at Mexico City earlier in the year and positive results on the ovals at Atlanta (fifth) and Texas (eighth) quieted down the critics. Then his performance on the road course at Sonoma shut them up for good. Although he had a lower-than-expected qualifying effort — 32nd overall — the Colombian-born driver worked his way through the field and used a bit of fuel strategy to first get past Jamie McMurray, who would have to stop for gas, and then hold off Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton to win his first Cup race of his career. In the process, Montoya joined Mario Andretti and Dan Gurney as the only drivers in history to win in Indy cars, Formula One machines and in NASCAR.

End of an era

Moment Number 45: Paul Goldsmith wins last race on sand/paved speedway in Daytona
Date: February 23, 1958
Location: Daytona Beach, Fla.
What happened: A motorcycle driver turned NASCAR pro, Goldsmith started as the polesitter for the 39-lap event, leading every lap in his No. 3 Pontiac owned by Smokey Yunick. In the process of winning the last Daytona beach race, he also became the only driver to win on the beach in a stock car and a bike. Never a full-timer in the Cup ranks, Goldsmith would go on to win an additional three races in 1966 to bring his total victory count to nine in 127 Cup starts.

Lucky 7s

Moment Number 44: Jamie McMurray wins Pepsi 400
Date: July 7, 2007
Location: Daytona International Speedway. Daytona Beach, Fla.
What happened: Sometimes all a person needs to break a funk is a little bit of luck. Competing in the final restrictor plate race using the "old car," McMurray bounced back from a penalty that dropped him to 35th place mid-race to put himself in position to battle for the victory. With six laps remaining in the Pepsi 400, McMurray muscled his way past Kyle Busch during the final restart of the race. The two had a heated side-by-side battle until the checkered flag, when McMurray used a drafting push from teammate Carl Edwards to edge Busch by 0.005 seconds. The margin of victory tied with Dale Earnhardt's triumph over Ernie Irvan at Talladega in 1993 for second-closest in NEXTEL Cup Series competition since electronic timing started being used in 1993. With the victory on 7/7/07, McMurray snapped a 166-race winless streak.

Golden championship

Moment Number 43: Jeff Gordon wins third Cup championship
Date: November 8, 1998
Location: Atlanta Motor Speedway. Hampton, Ga.
What happened: Although the 1998 season will likely forever be remembered as the year that Dale Earnhardt finally won the Daytona 500, that single-day performance should not overshadow the streak of dominance shown by Jeff Gordon, a run that was capped off with his run in the season finale, the NAPA 500. With the championship already locked up, Gordon headed to Atlanta searching for a decisive 13th victory of the season — a mark he reached with a strong race in which he led 113 of the rain-shortened 221 laps. As a result, Gordon had his hands on his third season trophy in four seasons. Since Gordon's 13-win season, only Jimmie Johnson has been able to crack double digits in wins in a single season, visiting Victory Lane 10 times in his 2007 championship season.

Intimidator matches the King

Moment Number 42: Dale Earnhardt wins his seventh Cup Championship
Date: October 23, 1994
Location: North Carolina Speedway. Rockingham, N.C.
What happened: There is a reason that Richard Petty is referred to as "The King." Namely, he achieved records that seemed impossible to match. But unlike other mere mortals, Dale Earnhardt proved to be an equal to Petty in the one category that matters most, championships. With three victories already under his belt in 1994, Earnhardt entered the AC-Delco 500 at "The Rock" with a real possibility of clinching the season championship with two races to spare. By leading 108 laps, including the last one which saw him battle Rick Mast and edge him to the line by a mere 0.06 seconds, "The Intimidator" captured the championship — the seventh of his career — to tie Petty's mark.

Legends battle on America's birthday

Moment Number 41: Pearson passes Petty on final lap to win
Date: July 4, 1974
Location: Daytona International Speedway. Daytona Beach, Fla.
What happened: This race will forever be remembered as the day the "Silver Fox" outsmarted the King of NASCAR. After leading 43 laps of the 160-lap mid-summer classic, David Pearson looked to be on his way to victory as he approached the white flag. However, he pulled onto the apron of the track and allowed rival Richard Petty to pass him as the duo headed into Turn 1 at Daytona. While Petty, who was driving his legendary No. 43 STP Oil Dodge at the time, led the race with less than a lap to go, it was Pearson who was in the best position as he was able to use the draft to slingshot into the lead, a move he pulled off to take the victory by a car length. NASCAR on FOX race analyst Mike Joy: Of all the Petty-Pearson battles and one-two finishes, this one stands out, and marks Pearson as the patient master of race winning strategy. A year-and-a-half later they would go at it again with less pleasant results. By the way, Pearson beat Petty more times than he finished second to Richard. 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: Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Juan Pablo Montoya, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray

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