Race Tales: Celebrating Ten Years of NASCAR Memories (2001)

Here, in its unedited entirety, is "Race Tales," a story I wrote in late 2001. On this page, you will find out more about my NASCAR fandom than you ever would care to know; it surprises me in hindsight! I have yet to revise it at all since then, but while I might update it later on, I felt the need to post it in the meantime. All 23 segments are included and presented to be read from top-to-bottom, including ten race reviews and the original side-notes written to aid its flow.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Race 6: Goody's 500 at Bristol - August 26, 1995

On this early Saturday night in August, my brother and I were home alone as our parents went out to dinner. We were very excited from this and decided to watch that night’s race at the steeply-banked short track in Bristol, Tennessee on our parent’s large television in the downstairs family room. While watching the ESPN’s prerace show as rain delayed the start of the main event they would soon cover, I distinctly remember ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch saying from victory lane that "at the end of the race, the winner will bring his beaten, battered race car here." I then thought: "How badly beaten?" It wouldn’t take long to find out!
Miles and I watched the race progress as the field dwindled down in a mass of caution flags from the carnage typical of the Winston Cup action on short tracks. Towards the end, it looked like Terry Labonte was up for an easy victory in his Kellogg’s Chevrolet as he was staying well ahead of the pack, but just like at Sears Point a little over three months prior, Dale Earnhardt was in second and coming on strong. This was soon noticed by the ESPN reporters, who put up a graphic on the screen that showed Earnhardt reduce his interval behind the leader over several laps. With two laps to go, the two were only a few car lengths apart with Labonte entering heavy traffic. As the white flag flew, signaling the final lap, I thought Earnhardt had him right where he wanted him. Earnhardt found a great run beneath Labonte when the Kellogg’s car was stuck behind a lapped car, giving Earnhardt a clear shot at the inside. Just then, as Earnhardt tried to pass Labonte on the apron near the frontstretch, he tapped the leader’s left rear. Labonte’s car wiggled, bounced off a car on the inside, then ran head-on into the outside wall just ahead of Earnhardt, crossing the finish line in the process to clinch the victory.

As the victorious crew pushed the twisted Kellogg’s machine into victory lane and a grinning Labonte talked with reporters, Miles and I were left in awe of how wild the finish and how prophetic Dr. Punch’s prerace narrative were. It was the best finish I had ever seen up to that point, which I soon conveyed to my parents when they called from the restaurant just after the coverage ended.


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