(The Imtimator with the famed black #3 GM Goodwrench Chevy)
The following are the top ten stories of the decade, ranked in order, as compiled by Workingonmyredneck.
The single biggest story in the this decade is the untimely death of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. in turn 3 of the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500! The fatal crash of NASCAR’s biggest star shook the sport to its very core and left a huge void in the garage. The impact of this event is still felt today, from the loss of many longtime Earnhardt fans, to the ENORMOUS expectations placed on his son, to the numerous safety improvements that were implemented as the results of his death.
The second biggest story were the deaths of Adam Petty, Kenny Irwin, Jr., and Tony Roper during a 5 month period that sent shock waves through the sport once again. These events exposed NASCAR’s weakness in their safety efforts. Those series of crashes put NASCAR under an intense microscope, probing those deaths and the need for new safety measures.
Next, NASCAR launched a huge landmark TV package deal with Fox and NBC/TNT worth approximately $2.4 billion dollars. This TV deal put the sport on network TV and opened up a whole new audience, TV ratings soared. Prior to this arrangement, the race tracks negotiated their own TV deal, leaving the fan to search all channels to find what channel the race was on for that particular weekend. The new TV deal gave continuity for the TV race fan.
In 2003 the NASCAR torch was handed down to the third generation France, Brian, to control. With Brian France came the era of change. The biggest change was the establishment of a “playoff structure”, know as The Chase for the Cup. The vote is still out on fan appeal. But the fact is The Chase has created some great racing and story lines for the last ten races of the year!
By mid-decade, NASCAR expanded its horizons and ventured into new racing venues, like Chicago and Kansas. The Fancis Ferko anti-trust suit, in 2004, led to even bigger changes. Three tracks were winners and two tracks were losers. The winners were Texas, Phoenix, and California, which were rewarded with a second race at each track. Rockingham was sold off and closed, while Darlington lost its traditional race over Labor Day, “The Southern 500” to the California track.
In 2003 Winston and R.J. Reynolds ended their 33 year relationship with NASCAR. The end of and that era, ushered in a landmark deal with NASCAR and Nextel, now Sprint.
Few, if any, drivers in all of NASCAR history have raced under a more intense spotlight as Dale Earnhardt, Jr! Junior carries the enormous weight of a fan base, and all of NASCAR for that matter, on his not-so-wide shoulders. Dale, Jr. became an instant star, even though he has had a huge undertaking of trying desperately to emerge from the shadow of greatness, The Intimidator himself! By mid decade, Junior had emerged as one of the most popular and successful drivers on the circuit. But a dispute with his step-mother, Teresa Earnhardt, paved the way for his move to Hendrick Motorsports. Once Junior moved to HMS the expectations were big, but unfortunately the results so far have been a big bust!
The Car of Tomorrow (CoT) was a very controversial move in 2007. It is boxier, harder to drive, but most definitely a far safer race car. Michael McDowell’s crash at Texas Motor Speedway really proves that fact!
Jimmie Johnson comes out of the ASA racing organization as, at best a “midpacker”. Jeff Gordon convinces Rick Hendrick to take a chance on this young, good looking driver. Johnson’s 47 wins in 8 years this decade is 13 more than the closest rival and 9 more that Dale, Sr. had during the 80’s! Now you can see why Jimmie Johnson was voted the driver of the decade!
Dodge re-entered the NASCAR world of racing in 2001. Toyota debuted in the Sprint Cup racing in 2007. Dodge has only been marginally successful in the Sprint Cup series, however Toyota has a had a huge impact. The biggest coup that Toyota could have scored is recruiting Joe Gibbs Racing away from GM!
These stories and their impact on NASCAR are the ten biggest stories of this decade in the opinion of Workingonmyredneck.
What are your ten biggest NASCAR stories of the decade?
Remember, as always, I looked it up so that you wouldn’t have to!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!