Monday, December 21, 2009

Results: Top NASCAR races of the decade

The results are in for the top NASCAR races and drivers of the past decade. From what’s been Tweeted and posted on message boards, the choices of races NASCAR provided for the media to vote on were not the top races to consider. Most everyone is in agreement that the 2001 Daytona 500, the last, fatal race for Dale Earnhardt, was the top race of the decade. Not only is it the one race everyone remembers, it is the race that led to the development of the Car of Tomorrow and a watershed of safety innovations. The race was the culminating chapter of Earnhardt’s life, but it was only the beginning of his legacy to NASCAR safety.
One of Jimmie Johnson’s wins should have been on this list too. His win at Phoenix International Raceway on Nov. 15, 2009 -- his fourth of the Chase, by the way -- made him all but a lock to win his unprecedented fourth Cup championship in a row. Plus it was a pretty good race to boot, despite its place in NASCAR history.

Here is a look at how the media ranked the top races of the decade:
  1. March 16, 2003 Darlington Raceway. Ricky Craven didn’t win many Cup races, but this one was the one everyone remembers. He and Kurt Busch collided on the last lap and Craven won by 0.002 seconds, the closest margin of victory in Cup history.
  2. Oct. 14, 2000 Talladega Superspeedway: This was Dale Earnhardt’s last win. He won only two races in 2000. His racing career was on the decline at this point, although he was still a threat to win races. His Dale Earnhardt Inc. team was on the rise however, the most dominant plate-racing team in Cup.
  3. March 11, 2001 Atlanta Motor Speedway: It didn’t take long for Kevin Harvick to win his first Cup race. Driving in Dale Earnhardt’s car and with his crew, Harvick won the race in Atlanta, only the third Cup start of his career. The number was changed, but the spirit of Earnhardt was riding with Harvick that day.
  4. July 7, 2001 Daytona International Speedway: Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the summer race at Daytona a mere five months after his father died on the last lap of the season-opening Daytona 500. Junior’s win gave Dale Earnhardt Inc. a season sweep at Daytona. Michael Waltrip, in the No. 15 car for DEI, won the Daytona 500.
  5. Feb. 18, 2007 Daytona International Speedway: Kevin Harvick edged out Mark Martin to win the Daytona 500.
  6. Nov. 21, 2004 Homestead-Miami Speedway: Greg Biffle won the race and Kurt Busch won the Chase. The Chase era was ushered in and the championship came down to the last race of the season, just what NASCAR wanted. Busch took home the Cup championship by eight points in the tightest race in the Chase standings. 
  7. March 20, 2005 Atlanta Motor Speedway: Carl Edwards won.
  8. Sept. 21, 2008 Dover International Speedway
  9. Feb. 15, 2004, Daytona International Speedway
  10. May 16, 2009, Lowe's Motor Speedway, (Sprint All-Star race)
  11. May 20, 2009, Lowe's Motor Speedway (Sprint All-Star race)

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