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« Teammates could play deciding role in Chase finale…for better or worse | Main | Johnson claims fifth title as rivals falter »

Can 2010 ever hope to live up to the three way battle of 1992?

By admin | November 18, 2010

By Richard Allen

 

One of the most historic events to ever take place in NASCAR racing was the 1992 Hooters 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. That race served as the season finale and featured a tight three way battle for the Winston Cup(now Sprint Cup) championship much like this weekend’s Ford 400 at the Miami-Homestead Speedway.

Coming into that race Davey Allison held a 30 point lead over Alan Kulwicki and a 40 point advantage over Bill Elliott. This year, Denny Hamlin is 15 points in front of Jimmie Johnson and 46 ahead of Kevin Harvick.

As that race unfolded, Allison appeared to be on the way to his first championship. Then on lap 254, Ernie Irvan spun off of turn four and collected Allison’s car on the narrow front straightaway. The second generation driver’s chances for a title went away as his machine skidded to a stop on the track.

In the end, the ultimate loner, Kulwicki, was able to grab the title away from Elliott by plotting to stay on the track during a pit stop sequence just long enough to lead one lap more than his rival and thus claim the five bonus points for leading the most laps. That secured the prize for Kulwicki.

That race has gone down in the annals of racing history as a defining moment for the sport. The question remains as to whether this race in Homestead can even come close to producing that same type of drama and long lasting resonance.

No matter what happens in the Ford 400, it is unlikely this race will produce the fond sentimentality of the 1992 event in large part due to the tragedies that have since played out. Davey Allison was a popular and promising son of a racing legend who seemingly had numerous wins and championships ahead of him until his tragic death as a result of a helicopter crash while in the prime of his career.

Kulwicki served as the model of an underdog who represented the self-made man so many fans who adored him would desire for themselves to be. Unfortunately, he too would tragically be killed in an aviation accident just months after winning his one and only championship.

Elliott had at one time embodied the same persona as Kulwicki. Appearing to come unexpectedly from out of nowhere to rise to the heights of NASCAR stardom, and by doing it his way. In 1992, he had left his family owned team to drive for that of the legendary Junior Johnson, but many of his fans still today view him as the antithesis of the modern day racer.

Today’s championship contenders, who each drive for corporate mega teams, will most likely never hold the same place in the hearts of fans as the three drivers who battled for a championship eighteen years ago. The tragic fates of two of those three have no doubt helped elevate their status among their devoted followers.

Hopefully, this Sunday’s three way battle can produce the drama of that day in an exciting final showdown of the 2010 season. But could it ever produce the same fondness when those who witness it look back eighteen years from now?

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Here are other columns you may find interesting:

Phoenix TV ratings show what fans think of modern NASCAR http://racingwithrich.com/?p=1315

Homestead to settle close championship battle http://racingwithrich.com/?p=1314

Teammates could play a deciding role in Chase finale…for better or worse http://racingwithrich.com/?p=1316

For links to all sorts of dirt racing news http://dirtracinstation.blogspot.com/

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