Auto racing is tailor-made for big moments. From come-from-behind victories to entire rulesets built around encouraging photo finishes (to the detriment of the rest of the sport), the world of racing is built on moments that last for seconds but echo through the decades. Yesterday, we asked you for your favorite moments in racing history, and you gave us some truly memorable answers. Let’s see some of the best.
Twirling, Twirling Towards Freedom
So easy: the 1985 Indy 500 when Danny Sullivan did the “Spin and Win”:
Do a 360 at those stupefying speeds at one of the greatest race locations of them all and still win? Holy eff.
Now, this may be a bit inside-baseball for some readers, but generally race cars are meant to drive forwards. If they’re going sideways, or backwards, something is probably wrong. Try not doing that, instead.
You’ve Done A Man’s Job, Sir
In keeping with the Indycar theme...
“This is what happens when you have children doing a man’s job up front.”
Sometimes, I think racing drivers are the absolute apex of the human condition, so immaculately prepared for motorsport that no one else could ever match their prowess. Other times, someone crashes before the start of a race for no apparent reason, and I come to the conclusion that I could be a top-tier racer with, like, six months of practice.
Hazard In A Half Shell
Got a Debris flag and saw and avoided a Turtle in the middle of turn 3 at Brainerd on my Yamaha
I understand, logically, that the turtle you dodged on your bike was almost certainly not of the Teenage Mutant Ninja variety. Even still, I appreciate you not hurting Mikey. Sometimes he just gets lost, and he’s hard to drag back to the sewers.
CART at Laguna Seca, 1996 - Alex Zanardi overtakes Bryan Herta at the corkscrew on the final lap of the final race of the season, in what has come to be known as just “The Pass”:
Sure, by modern standards that would be a track limit violation, but who cares? It was an amazing ballsy move, and made me a fan of Zanardi for life. And while sadly he did not have the F1 career I’d have hoped for, everything he’s gone through (and overcome) since has only cemented and raised my opinion of him. Everyone should listen to the F1: Beyond the Grid podcast episode with him.
I really hope he manages to have a full recovery from his most recent horrific accident (I don’t believe we’ve had any news since he was discharged from hospital last year), and continue to be an inspiration not just as a driver / sportsman but also just as a human being.
Yeah, yeah, the pass was cool and all, but check out that Rayovac sponsorship. Apparently the company’s still around, but I haven’t heard its name since I was a kid. A true throwback if ever I’ve seen one.
But If I Win, I Take The Cash, And The Respect
TV: Dale Earnhardt wins the Daytona 500 after 20 attempts. I loved Nascar back then and wasn’t a fan of Earnhardt. Then when he won Dayota, the team members of EVERY team and all the drivers came and got in a line to high 5 him. That’s when I realized although he might be the toughest SOB on the track, he was one of the most respected and beloved men in the pits and off the track. That’s when I became a fan of Dale, realizing he might have been the greatest driver I’ve ever seen. (Never became a fan of his fans)
Gotta do it for Dale, baby. And then when Dale does it, you gotta give him a high five. Those are just the rules.
Not Denis, A Different One
Villeneuve and Arnoux at Dijon (not Darmok and Jelad at Tenagra), 1979. I was already a 13-year-old superfan of Gilles, and if this wouldn’t seal the deal I don’t know what would.
It’s a shame that so many old racing videos now only exist in such low quality. If I had Bezos money, I’d commission professional restorations of original film strips from classic racing moments, just to save them for posterity.
Hamilton Takes It
Gotta go with “Is that Glock!?!?”
I’m not sure whether Glock intentionally slowed down, or Hamilton just carried more speed, but this was a pass for the ages. Also, not the best-looking era of F1 cars. Gotta say.
That There’s An Esport
I’ll take it a little differently here. Not my first online win in Gran Turismo and not my last, but it was the first time I used any kind of strategy, as well as using someone’s techniques against them. Plus it’s in my favorite car on my favorite fictional track
I wish it showed the time intervals, but it still works. Also, the white bar to the right of the speedometer is my throttle input, which will play into the win
1:27- first lap through the chicane of death. My usual strategy is to let off before the exit. I noticed the guy in second, who was on my tail the whole lap, dropped back after the chicane. I instantly knew he brakes to exit. (Plus you can see it in the video lol)
2:27- lap 2, I gave him the gap back after a slight slip exiting the first hairpin.
3:10- lap 2, he tries not braking when exiting the chicane and taps the wall afterwards. Now it’s in his head.
3:46- lap 3, he passed me on the first chicane. He disappeared on me and reappeared in front. Shit felt like in Initial D when someone gets passed. I gasped.
4:45- lap 3, I knew he was gonna brake for the death chicane, so I let off earlier than usual and slingshot out. I got a little too greedy on the last hairpin, but it was good to see if it would even work
6:24- lap 4, final attempt, and it worked perfectly. I didn’t wanna mess up on the final hairpin, so I braked a little earlier, cut it inside, for a 1-2-3 bumper to bumper to bumper win
I very briefly campaigned a Ford GT in Forza Horizon’s online Rivals mode, and it still holds up as a stellar chassis. No match for the BRZ and later Integra I moved to, but still. Virtual racing rules.
Gotta Love A Gimmick
It was a day, rather than a moment, or even one race, but I have never seen anything like it.
In 1962(?), I attended the Refrigerator Bowl race at Marlboro Motor Speedway in Maryland. This was a very small road track which incorporated a small oval in its layout. I only attended a few races there, but it became clear that the organizers loved using gimmicks to attract attention.
That day’s gimmicks included Elmo Langley racing a NASCAR Ford racing against Dick Thompson (The Racing Dentist) in a new Corvette. The Corvette won, but Langley put on quite a demonstration of what a big Ford stock car could do an a tight and narrow track.
The other big gimmick was a go-kart, which won a match race with a Morgan Plus 4. (IIRC, the same Morgan also spun coming out of the last corner of another race and finished second running backwards across the finish line.
Later in the day Roger Penske drove his Cooper-Monaco (a “two-seater” built out of a wrecked Formula One car) to victory in the main event.
This all seems bizarre now but back then it was just another day at the races.
The concept of gimmicks in racing certainly isn’t bizarre even today. What is stage racing in NASCAR if not one big gimmick to make more photo finishes? To add in more commercials? That’s a gimmick, baby.
Respect The King
In the 70's when the King was king, I used to love watching each race, but this was beyond classic Pierson/Petty dueling with a crash literally at the last turn and you can see Petty scrambling to getter in gear to get the car over the finish line. Edge of your seat racing in the NASCAR years.
Were the Seventies just brown? Was that just the color of the world back then? Like, when the world turned color in the fifties, did they get it wrong at first?
Colin McRae winning Rally GB to secure his first and only World Championship in 1995, followed by those iconic donuts with the Scottish flag out the window of his Impreza 555.
His teammate Carlos Sainz was winning the championship through seven events and had three wins to McRae’s one after Rally Spain, Sainz’ home event, which he won. McRae needed to do the same and win at Rally GB to take the championship. Long story short, he dominated in the rain in Wales and became the first British driver to win the title, plus winning the first manufacturer’s championship for Subaru. Scottish fans turned up by the thousands, playing bagpipes and waving flags to bring him home. Like Braveheart with rally cars.
As a recovering Subaru owner, I am legally, ethically, and contractually obligated to put respect on Colin McRae’s name at every opportunity. This is one of those opportunities, and I will not miss it.
Classic NASCAR Announcing
It is an absolute death match between 2 Nascar events:
1A: 2001 Pepsi 400. Dale Jr. winning on his first trip back to Daytona after his father’s death was such a goddam scene. One of the most “everything’s gonna be alright” moments that ever happened.
1B; Jeff Gordon’s last win at Martinsville. It’s one that I kinda of have mixed feelings about because it was brutal exercise in how ridiculous the playoff systems is (or at least it’s early iterations), but listening to the last 20 laps play out over the radio was absolutely insane, and ended with me cheering alone in my car and laying on the horn.
Skip to about 3:40 for the fireworks:
MATT KENSETH JUST WRECKED JOEY LOGANO
THE DRIVE FOR FIVE IS STILL ALIVE *screaming*
Enthusiasm in announcing can make a sport seem more exciting, engaging, and enticing to the viewer. Rattling off expletives while you commentate is a surefire way to make the TV execs, and the poor souls in production, fiercely angry at you. The key to good shoutcasting is in the balance.
You Never Forget Your First Race
I may be biased, as it’s the first race I ever saw in person, but what a finish!
1986 GI Joe’s 500 - CART - Portland International Raceway
Mario stealing the win from his own son, at the last possible moment!
If there’s one place you’re allowed to be biased, it’s your own memory of what matters to you. If you loved a racing event more for the experience of being there than for the racing itself, that’s a totally valid way to approach it.
New York’s Best Track
Dale Earnhardt winning the pole at Watkins Glen with a broken sternum and clavicle in a crash the previous week (I think Talladega?) It’s impressive enough that he was able to race at all, then add in the physical demands of a fast road course, and he still is faster than everyone else? Epic.
You can talk to me about the Monticello Motor Club all day, but for New York tracks my heart will always lie with the Glen. Once you see those blue guardrails from the track, you’re hooked.
You Need Good Barbecue
Maybe not a single moment, but attending the night race at Bristol in 2009 was a helluva lot of fun. We were guests of one of the race teams and had a chance to walk on the track before the race. You can see that the track is severely banked on TV but you don’t fully grasp how steep it is are until you are standing on the track surface. Also Ridgewood BBQ, just a short drive away, was SPECTACULAR. An all round good time.
For too long, race fans have been forced to live with mediocre concession food. No more, I say. Tracks should have good barbecue, nearby or on-site, as a requirement. I will allow food trucks to qualify.