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The Worst Races in NASCAR History

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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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We always talk about the “best” NASCAR has to offer – who the “best” drivers were or what the “best” tracks are, both in the modern and pre-modern eras. But, for every fantastic barnburner of a race, for every “best” driver, for every great NASCAR track, there’s also at least one dud from the bunch. Today, we’re going to take a look at 5 of the worst races in the history of NASCAR.

Disclaimer: these races are 5 of the worst. There are more that could be added to another list. Also, this is not a ranking or a tier list. These races are listed in no particular order. Let’s take a look at it.

1969 Talladega 500

We’re going to start things off with this blast from the past. The 1969 Talladega 500 is largely considered to be the worst race in NASCAR history, even to many within the business, and that’s for a few different reasons.

To start, this was the inaugural event at the Alabama International Motor Superspeedway, aka Talladega Superspeedway. NASCAR founder and chairman, Bill France, wanted to build the biggest, baddest, fastest track on the NASCAR circuit and he did.

He purchased a chunk of land in Alabama and broke ground. The result was a 2.66 mile trioval with wide turns and steep banking. Prior to the actual running of the race, NASCAR held a tire test. At the time, NASCAR was going through their first tire war and the two tire manufacturers that were competing were Goodyear and Firestone. The teams were free to choose which tires they wanted to run and would have struck deals with one or the other tire companies to run their tires exclusively on a race weekend. But, as we know, when participating in a tire war, tire companies will often sacrifice safety for the sake of speed which is exactly what happened in 1969.

The first day of testing was plagued with tire blowouts and injuries. The two competing tire companies flew in harder compounds in hopes that the problem would be fixed, only it continued to happen. Firestone pulled out of the event due to safety concerns and allowed drivers out of their contracts for that race so that they could choose what tire they wanted to run.

Goodyear stayed in and continued to promote this event. The drivers grew angry with the consistent blowouts and utter lack of a concern in regards to safety. The Professional Drivers Association (PDA) was a drivers union led by chairman, Richard Petty. They, as a union, approached Bill France with the idea of postponing the race until a more suitable tire could be manufactured. Bill France bullheadedly refused to hear the drivers union out which ultimately led to walkout and boycott of the race. This included fan favorite drivers such as the aforementioned Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Wendell Scott, and many others. France was afraid that the walkout would hinder fan attendance so, in an attempt to rectify that, he offered fans who bought tickets to the first ever Talladega 500 free admission to the 1970 Daytona 500.

For the race, the field was filled with non-union drivers, as well as drivers from the previous 400 mile preliminary sportsman race, as they were told that they could run those slower cars if they chose to participate. Richard Brickhouse would win his one and only race, but even that was not without controversy. Second place finisher, Jim Vandiver, claimed that Brickhouse was a lapped car who had just unlapped himself, something Ned Jarrett, an announcer, also believed. However, the win stood, as NASCAR was most likely ready to move on from the debacle of a race weekend.

Popular YouTuber S1apShoes made an excellent video about this race, which goes into more detail about it. Check it out.

2008 Brickyard 400

Until recently, the idea of NASCAR racing at the famed Brickyard was met with dread by fans. While the race was once considered a prestigious crown jewel, by the late 2000s and throughout the 2010s, it was common perception that NASCAR at the Brickyard was some of the worst racing the series presented all season, with the effects of dirty air and a change in the cars and packages.

Let’s face it, the COT and particularly the Gen6 cars struggled on intermediates and long ovals. Michigan, Auto Club, Pocono, and Indy were all somewhat viewed as a weekend NASCAR fans and drivers just had to grit our teeth to get through. That has changed in recent times with the improved racing on intermediates as presented by the NextGen car. Now, most NASCAR fans are begging for the return of the “oval” configuration of the famed Brickyard. But it was this very track where one of NASCAR’s worst races in history took place.

The year was 2008 and there were a lot of changes going on. KFB was lighting things up with a previously believed to be mediocre No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs, Tony Stewart was believed to be committing career suicide by leaving JGR to team up with Gene Haas to form Stewart-Haas racing in 2009, and it was Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s first year at Hendrick Motorsports. There was a lot of eyes on that particular situation.

But on the weekend of the 2008 Brickyard 400, it was tire manufacturer, Goodyear, which was making the headlines. Throughout practice sessions and even qualifying, the Goodyear rubber just could not hold up. Rather than retconning the tires Goodyear had brought, NASCAR decided to go forward even with the tires provided. They would throw competition cautions every 10-12 laps in an attempt to keep the tires from failing, but even then, tire blowouts were still the main story of the race. The race was a slog to get through and left a bad taste in the mouths of many NASCAR fans.

Below is a video from YouTuber, Vanillawafer which breaks down the whole ordeal in more detail. But have no doubt, the 2008 Brickyard 400 was the worst race in that track’s long history…yeah, even worse than last year’s Indy “roval”.

2000 Plate Race at New Hampshire

Following the tragic passing of Adam Petty, NASCAR was in a tough spot. Petty’s crash occurred at the relatively low speed New Hampshire Motor Speedway which boggled the minds of the NASCAR executives. When the Cup Series returned to the track later in the fall, NASCAR had made some big changes, one of the changes being putting restrictor plates on the cars in attempt to slow them down. It was a safety measure, sure, so I can’t be too critical of the decision, but it made for one of the absolute worst NASCAR races in history.

Remember a few years ago when the Xfinity Series ran restrictor plates at the Brickyard? Remember how difficult it was to pass or get a run due to the flat nature of the track? Yeah, well the issue happened in the 2000 Dura Lube 300 at New Hampshire, also a relatively flat oval. Jeff Burton started on the pole and…he stayed there. He couldn’t exactly pull away from the field but nobody could ever build a big enough run to overtake him because, by the time they were in the turns, the momentum was dead. With cautions falling squarely in the pit windows, Jeff Burton led every single lap of that race. It was very boring and, thankfully, NASCAR did some other things safety wise and didn’t return to the track with the plate package the next year.

Below, our friend, the Iceberg, made a video about this race. Check it out and give him some love.

Tulsa Fairgrounds 1956

We’re throwing it way back for this one. Do you remember a couple of years ago at the first Dirt Bristol race when NASCAR, mid-race, threw an audible and aborted double-file restarts due to rising dust? Well, the same sort of thing happened here. This was way back when racing on dirt in NASCAR’s Strictly Stock division was still fairly common.

This particular race took place at the historic Tulsa Fairgrounds where it was built all the way back in the early 1930s for a plethora of racing events. NASCAR didn’t go there until 1956 where they were supposed to partake in a 100-mile race. However, once the race got underway and several cars had fallen out due to crashes caused by a lack of visibility because of the rising dust and bad lighting, Lee Petty pulled off to the side of the course on lap 34 of a scheduled 200. He got out of his car, took to the flag stand, and waived the checkered flag himself. This put an end to a debacle of a race, and Speedy Thompson was declared the race winner. The track closed and was demolished in 1973.

2000 Daytona 500

Before the tragic last lap, the infamous 2001 Daytona 500 was shaping up to be one of the greatest races in NASCAR history. That is a far cry from The Great American Race just one year before. That’s right, the 2000 Daytona 500 is largely considered to be one of the worst races in NASCAR history as well as THE worst Daytona 500 in history.

One of the biggest storylines of the 2000 Speedweeks was Dale Jarrett’s crash in Happy Hour on Saturday before the big race. Rather than going to a backup car, though, the Robert Yates Racing team was able to fix up the No. 88 Quality Care Ford, and Jarrett was able to start the race from the pole.

The Yates Racing cars were fast as the first lead change of the race came with Dale Jarrett’s teammate, Ricky Rudd in the No. 28, passing him for the lead. At first, it looked to be a good, contested race. That was until Jarret regained the lead and was able to break apart, forming his own small pack way out front.

Even an early caution caused by Jeff Gordon who was having a mechanical failure wasn’t enough to catch the pack back up as Jarrett would lead a freight train around the top for the next one hundred laps or so. The only lead changes came in form of green flag pitstops, but that would ultimately see Jarrett just cycle back to the lead.

Following the second caution of the race, Mark Martin was able to wrestle the lead away from Dale Jarrett and with some green flag pitstop gambles, Johnny Benson’s unsponsored No. 10 Pontiac for MB2 was able to capture the lead, which he would hold until the final caution of the race. On the restart, Jarrett would dip below Benson, the pack would go with him, and Dale Jarrett would come to the caution flag to win the 2000 Daytona 500. It was a snoozer.

Our friend at Black Flags Matter made a great video on this race. Check it out. He watched the whole thing from start to finish for us. Give him a like an share for that, at least.

Well, there you go, NASCAR fans and Daily Downforce readers. These are my 5 Worst Races in NASCAR History list. Did I leave any out? Why don’t you let us know on all of our socials! Maybe we can include them in another article down the road.

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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