5 classic NASCAR races to watch this off-season

By:Isaac Donsky, Columnist 

Columnist views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own 

So the 2020 NASCAR season has come to an end. What to do now?

Well, I usually spend the offseason rewatching old races. It brings me back to a time when stock car racing was very different from what we see today. Now, was it better? That’s a matter of opinion.

Regardless, these five classic races I’ve listed below are some of my personal favorites. And if I’ve convinced anyone who has read this column over the last few months to give NASCAR a chance, then they should definitely look these races up on YouTube for some classic NASCAR action. Oh, and no spoilers. You have to watch these races for yourself to see what happens.

  1. 1979 Daytona 500

This is the race that put NASCAR on the map. CBS took a chance and decided to broadcast the 1979 Daytona 500 live flag-to-flag, a far cry from the early days of NASCAR on TV where a highlight package or two was all you would get. It was a good gamble, as a snowstorm blanketed the Northeast, trapping people in their homes with nothing to do but turn on the television. And what did they see? A bit of NASCAR lore.

Let’s just say this race had a little bit of everything. It had a star-studded cast of characters, roaring 1970’s-style muscle cars, one of the most incredible finishes in NASCAR history that saw a last-lap crash, an upset winner, and a fist-fight in the infield.

  1. 1984 Talladega 500

According to Greg Fielden’s “NASCAR: The Complete History,” this one a historic race. 

“… many observers said at the time was the greatest race in NASCAR history.” Fielden said. 

By the way, if you ever want to learn the entire history of NASCAR, pick up a copy of Fielden’s book. It makes for a great read.

Anyway, the 1984 Talladega 500 featured 68 lead changes, 16 different leaders and an insane run to the finish that saw ten drivers have an equal shot at the win. I’d argue that it lives up to Fielden’s claim.

  1. 1992 Hooters 500

For most NASCAR fans, this is the race. Six drivers entered the season finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway with a chance at the series championship. Bill Elliott, Harry Gant, Mark Martin, Davey Allison, Kyle Petty and Alan Kulwicki all had an equal shot at the title but only one of the six could be crowned series champion.

I should mention that this was also seven-time champion Richard Petty’s final race, future four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s first race, and the only time that Petty, Gordon, and seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt raced against each other on the same track. Yeah, this one tops the totem pole for sure.

  1. 2007 Daytona 500

This is the first NASCAR race I ever watched. I was just nine years old when I saw this one and it blew me away.

For about the first 150 laps, it looked as if Kurt Busch or Tony Stewart would win. They were just that dominant. But with 46 laps to go, they crashed while fighting for the lead. Suddenly the race was wide open, with nearly everyone having a shot at the win. Pure chaos broke out. What followed was yet another classic finish that left my jaw on the floor.

Safe to say I’ve been hooked ever since.

  1. 2015 Goody’s 500

This is a recent race, but it’s still a goody (pun entirely intended). Heading into this late-season short track clash, Joey Logano had made it clear he wasn’t above playing dirty to win the championship. How else would he have won three straight coming to Martinsville?

But one of the drivers that Logano had wronged was not going to let him get away with it.  The race that followed saw what can best be described as the perfect act of revenge. It also allowed for a retiring legend to go out with one last glorious moment of triumph.

It also caused a good bit of controversy. That’s always a welcome sight in the great American drama.

So, if I’ve interested you with my admittedly poor attempts at recapping classic races without giving away any spoilers, be sure to check them out. NASCAR is pretty lenient when it comes to copyright, so all of these races are available in full length on YouTube. Trust me, anyone who wants to learn more about this incredible sport should check these races out.

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