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The Best Championship Clinching Races To Watch On NASCAR Classics

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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A look at some of the best championship-clinching moments in NASCAR history!

The NASCAR Classics page is booming in popularity. Fans of all ages are really enjoying going back and taking a look at some of the most iconic races in the history of our beloved sport. We, at the Daily Downforce, have already taken a look at some of the most interesting races to watch as well as the best races to come out of our sport’s pioneer days. Today, we’re making another list. Here are some of the most iconic Championship clinching races in the history of our sport.

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#5: 1994 AC-Delco 500 at Rockingham Speedway

There is little doubt that the 1994 Winston Cup Series Season belonged to Dale Earnhardt and his No. 3 GM Goodwrench Chevy team for RCR. While Dale would only end up in victory lane four times on the season (including in this race you’re about to watch), he was very consistent finishing 20 of the 31 races of the year in the top-5. This remarkable consistency would lead to his championship-clinching win in Rockingham two races before the 1994 finale at Atlanta. Dale would score his 7th and final championship with the win, taking the title over Mark Martin by a staggering 444 points.

#4: 2016 Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead

While what Earnhardt did in 1994 was absolutely impressive, all Jimmie Johnson had to do to collect his 7th and record-tying championship was merely survive. For all its faults, what the playoffs have brought to NASCAR is chaos and unpredictability. In the closing laps of the 2016 Ford EcoBoost 400, it would appear that Carl Edwards was about to capture that elusive Cup Title. But a late-race caution for phantom debris bunched the field back up. As he went for a late block on Joey Logano, Edwards was turned into the wall, turning this championship finale up on its head. Another late-race caution set up the perfect storm for JJ. During an overtime restart, Johnson got to restart on the front row beside leader, Kyle Larson. From there, JJ just scooted off and made the top podium of NASCAR GOATs a little more crowded.

#3: 1998 NAPA 500 at Atlanta

In 1998, Jeff Gordon, fresh off the heels of his second Winston Cup Series title, had the most remarkable season of the modern era of NASCAR. While he would technically clinch his third title the week before at Rockingham, it was at Hotlanta where Gordon would cement the perfect season, winning a mindboggling 13 races on the year and scoring a total of 5,328 points, the most ever in the Winston Cup style points system. With this win, he would tie King Richard Petty for the most wins in a season in the modern era. He would also score 17 straight top-5 finishes during the 1998 season.

#2: 2011 Ford 400 at Homestead

With the Chase and later Playoff championship formats, it’s impossible for a driver to clinch a championship two or even one race before the scheduled finale. The 2011 Ford 400 from Homestead is largely considered to be the championship that ushered in the NASCAR Playoffs we have today. It was a classic battle between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards which would end with Cousin Carl once again getting the short end of the stick. Heading into the Chase for the Cup, Tony Stewart’s confidence was at an all-time low. He didn’t believe himself to be worthy of being in the Chase, believing that he was taking a spot away from a much more deserving driver. That changed rather quickly when Stewart won 5 of the 10 Chase races, including the one you’re about to watch. Really, where Stewart “clinched” his third and final Cup title was on a restart with 38 laps to go. Stewart was running 4th and made the jump to 3-wide to overtake leader, Kyle Busch. Carl Edwards followed. As they ran, Stewart and Edwards were tied in points. But it was Tony Stewart who held the tiebreaker as he would go on to win the race and the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship!

#1: 1992 Hooters 500 at Atlanta

The 1992 NASCAR Winston Cup Series Championship fight has to be the greatest in series history. Long before the gimmicks of a 10-man Chase or a 16-driver Playoff, SIX drivers went into the final race at Atlanta with a mathematical chance of coming out as the champion. Those drivers were Bill Elliott, Davey Allison, Alan Kulwicki, Kyle Petty, Harry Gant, and Mark Martin. Petty and Martin would ultimately get knocked out of the battle due to engine failures and Harry Gant was sort of just the odd man out. The day seemed to be Davey Allison’s day. He certainly seemed to have the fastest car, along with eventual race winner, Bill Elliott. But an incident with Ernie Irvan who had blown a tire would knock him out of the running. Then it was down to just two: Bill Elliott driving the powerhouse No. 11 Budweiser Ford for Junior Johnson and the ultimate underdog in owner-driver, Alan Kulwicki. The two ran 1-2 for the bulk of the second half of the race but it would be during a cycle of green-flag pitstops where Kulwicki would clinch his championship by leading his 103rd lap, enough to clinch the 5 bonus points over Bill Elliott’s 102-laps led. My dad still aches over that one. Junior Johnson was so distraught that he fired Bill Elliott’s crew chief on the spot. Meanwhile, Kulwicki won the 1992 NASCAR Winston Cup Series title, clinching it all over 1 lap led.

What do you think, NASCAR fans? How are you enjoying reliving all of these classic races? I’m having a great time, myself. For more lists like this one, as well as NASCAR news and discussion topics, keep it right here at the Daily Downforce!

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Picture of Cody Williams

Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
All Posts